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Kurt Warner Ends His Storybook Career
Kurt Warner ends his storybook career
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
He walked into the room in typical Kurt Warner style, with humility in his heart and a Bible in his hand. And then directly and with clarity announced what everyone expected: that he was retiring after 12 storybook seasons in the NFL.
In no way did he seem conflicted about his decision. The only time he got emotional was after he brought wife Brenda and their seven children onstage at Friday's news conference in Tempe, Ariz.
The MVP awards, the Super Bowls, the amazing statistics will always be associated with Warner. But that's not really what Warner wants as his legacy.
"The one thing that I always want to leave people with ... is that anything is possible," Warner said. "I think that's one of the reasons that God's placed me up here and allowed me to do what I do. To encourage people out there that although sometimes it doesn't look really bright, and there's moments you want to give up ... that anything's possible.
"I hope that when people think back on my career ... that that's what they remember more than anything else. Not the way I threw the football. Not particular games that I won. That they remember that here's a guy that believed, that worked hard, and although things didn't always go in his favor, he continued to press through. And with his faith in himself and with his faith in God, he was able to accomplish great things. That's what I want everybody to remember."
How could we ever forget?
From grocery store clerk in Iowa to triggerman for the Greatest Show on Turf. It was a made-for-TV movie if ever there was one. But then came the wrenching loss to New England in Warner's second Super Bowl. Injuries. The Brenda-gate controversies with Mike Martz.
After his unceremonious release by the Rams following the 2003 season, Warner seemed lost in the wilderness career-wise with the New York Giants, and initially, with the Arizona Cardinals.
"After leaving the Giants, it looked like that was probably it," current Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "There were questions about him, about his thumb. And then he puts on the glove (on his throwing hand for the 2007 season)."
And suddenly, it was vintage Warner once again, and for the second time in his career he took a woebegone franchise to the Super Bowl. Call it the rise and fall — and rise again — of Warner.
"It's absolutely one of the most amazing stories in sports," said Charley Armey, Rams GM during most of Warner's six-year stay in St. Louis. "It probably never happens again in our lifetime."
"It's an unbelievable story," said Dick Vermeil, head coach of the Rams' Super Bowl championship team. "No quarterback has ever done what he's done in the history of the league."
Through it all Warner maintained his humble ways, as a trip to dinner with Vermeil a year ago in Phoenix illustrated.
"He shows up to take me to the steakhouse in a minivan!" Vermeil said, laughing. "Here's a multi-million-dollar quarterback driving a minivan, with kids stuff inside. And he's apologizing up one side and down the other. But he says, 'Hey, I'm a family man. This fits my family just right.' He's a wonderful human being."
It was Vermeil who gave Warner his first chance as a starter when Trent Green went down with a season-ending knee injury in preseason play in 1999. "We will rally around Kurt Warner," was Vermeil's now-famous battle cry the day after Green's injury.
And rally they did. After nine consecutive losing seasons, the Rams went 13-3 during the '99 regular season and then defeated Tennessee 23-16 in the Super Bowl, giving St. Louis its one and only NFL championship.
"I felt our football team was going to be a very good football team and Kurt Warner wouldn't get us beat," Vermeil said Friday. "He'd keep us in the game, and we could run the ball with Marshall Faulk and mix in the passing game. But never did I expect him to be what he ended up being."
Warner threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in the '99 opener against Baltimore.
"I was like, 'Man, this guy's pretty good,' " defensive end Leonard Little recalled. "I mean, everybody was surprised."
Little ended the 2009 season as the last remaining Rams player from that Super Bowl squad and is now contemplating retirement himself.
"After that first game, we knew he could play," Little said. "We really trusted that he could carry our offense. We just rallied behind him, and the rest is history."
From 1999 through 2001, the Rams went 42-13, played in two Super Bowls and scored 500-plus points all three seasons. No other team in NFL history has even posted back-to-back 500-point seasons.
"His anticipation with the ball was just remarkable," Martz said. "His accuracy was impeccable."
But the throws weren't always things of beauty. Early on in Warner's tenure with the Rams, Martz put a $100 bill on the wall in a meeting room. "That's yours when you throw a spiral," Martz recalled teasing Warner. "That $100 bill was on the wall all the time he was (in St. Louis). But the ball got there — dead center and on time."
Oddly enough, two plays in St. Louis long after Warner left the Rams jump-started his revival, and then foreshadowed his retirement. In Game 5 of the 2007 season, a sack by Will Witherspoon ended Matt Leinart's season with a broken clavicle. That put Warner back in the starting lineup, wearing a glove on his throwing hand. The glove helped Warner's grip, something he had struggled with because of a chronic thumb problem from the Arena League days.
In Game 10 of the '09 season, a hit by blitzing Oshiomogho Atogwe knocked Warner out of the game — and the following game as well — with a concussion.
"The hit in St. Louis, I think was part of the (retirement) process," said Warner, who began to strongly consider retirement from midseason on.
Warner now plans to concentrate on his family. He will keep his charitable foundation going, perhaps do some speaking, writing, ministry work. Maybe some football analyst work on TV or radio.
And if all goes well, five years hence, he'll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"If he's not in the Hall of Fame, they're going to have to take some guys that are in there out," Vermeil said. "Because he's got (quarterback) numbers that are better than everybody there except Steve Young."
Re: Kurt Warner Ends His Storybook Career
man, this never gets old....RnD
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