On Sept. 8, when the Arizona Cardinals kick off their 2014 season against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football, Kurt Warner will be inducted to the organization’s Ring of Honor.
The moment will starkly contrast one of the former quarterback’s first experiences at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, which he recounted while a guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Wednesday.
“I still do think back to one of the first times I was in the building and I’m running off the sideline and I’m getting booed out of the stadium,” he remembered, laughing. “And what a big turnaround that is that has your name now going up in the stadium.”
What Warner was recalling was his Sept. 24, 2006 performance against his former team, the St. Louis Rams — a three-interception effort that resulted in a 16-14 home loss. He finished the 2006 season with an 89.3 QB rating in six games.
Things indeed turned around in the three seasons that followed, crescendoing of course with an NFC Championship in 2008.
“It was an emotional run and it was a great time,” Warner said of those years.
“And I think it’s just a perfect example of how in professional sports (organizations), a lot of times patience is the key. We live in a world that we think success should come overnight. And it doesn’t always work like that.”
Warner personifies that principle almost to a tee. A late bloomer, the quarterback didn’t crack even second on the Northern Iowa depth chart until his senior year, when he started for the Panthers.
He entered the Arena Football League thereafter, going undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft, having been released by the Green Bay Packers following a camp invitation. Then, as the oft-retold story goes, he ended up stocking grocery shelves in his home town of Cedar Falls, Iowa, before joining the AFL’s Iowa Barnstormers the following year.
He’s lost sight of none of it. And now, as he awaits the Sept. 8 ceremony, he can only be grateful.
“I’m thankful that the organization and the fans were patient with me and that I was able to get that second chance,” he went on.
“What an honor… Just that an organization feels that you belong as part of the history of that franchise, and a storied franchise like the Cardinals, that’s really special and that means a lot.”