Four years ago Kurt Warner was preparing to lead the Arizona Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay.
For Warner, who was 37 years old at the time, it was his third time playing the NFL’s biggest game.
For most of his teammates, though, it was a brand new experience.
“It was actually one of the proudest moments of my career,” Warner told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “I enjoyed that week so much because I enjoyed watching everybody else.
“I don’t think, very few people in that organization expected to be there, obviously, or maybe even thought that they would ever be there and to watch them enjoy that week — to see these players that had played for a number of years with the Cardinals, been here for the first time and really in the playoffs for the first time and then the Super Bowl, I enjoyed so much watching that ride through everybody else’s eyes.”
That’s not to say Warner did not enjoy it himself, as he said he knew his career was winding down and having one more shot to participate in all the Super Bowl entails is something he enjoyed and embraced.
But to be able to bring the Cardinals — the Arizona Cardinals — to that point was, in itself, an incredible accomplishment.
“Here’s a team that hasn’t been in a championship game in 50 years, and we’re here,” Warner says he remembers feeling. “Everything else was gravy. We’re going to try to go out and win and I think we can, but that week of just watching those players and enjoying it and stepping back and understanding how far we had come made it a tremendous week.”
Of course, then the game happened.
Without going into too much detail, the Cardinals took the lead late only to watch as the Steelers marched down the field to claim the win. It was a heartbreaking moment for the Cardinals and their fans, leaving a bitter taste in many peoples’ mouths.
Looking back on it now, Warner appreciates just how close the Cardinals were to being Super Bowl champions.
“You gain perspective as you get older and you come to appreciate moments,” Warner said. “You come to appreciate a moment like playing in the Super Bowl.”
Warner, talking about his 64-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald that put Arizona ahead 23-20 with 2:37 left is one such moment, as it proved to everyone that yes, the Cardinals belonged in the game against the vaunted Steelers.
“It’s basically saying we’re good enough to be world champions,” Warner said. “Now whether it finishes that way after great players making great plays to beat us; but to solidify ourselves with two minutes left in the final game and to be ahead, I think it lets everyone know that hey, this is a championship-caliber team.”
But the Cardinals did not win the championship, and Warner understands teams are ultimately judged by whether or not they take the trophy home and earn Super Bowl rings. However, he will not let the team coming up just short ruin what was ultimately an outstanding game and moment in his life.
“Everybody wants to win, but for me it’s about the two best teams playing in a game where either team can be champions and it comes down to great players making those plays,” he said.