Kurt Warner sees underdog story, but always ‘expected to be successful’
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is known well for his unique journey to becoming a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
From riding the bench in college, going undrafted, getting cut by the Green Bay Packers and going on to work in a grocery store, Warner eventually found opportunity with the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers.
Fast forward to today, the Iowa native is in the Hall of Fame, played in three Super Bowls, won the league MVP twice and is in the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor. He is the only undrafted quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.
But Warner, when talking to Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday for Legends Week, said he doesn’t necessarily look at his career through the same lens as others do.
“Unlike most people, I expected to be successful,” Warner said. “And so I wasn’t necessarily shocked that I was actually playing good football, because I always felt like when I had the ball in my hands, I played really good football.”
“When people look at my career, they look and see what you see: They see that I sat on the bench for four years in college and they see that I got cut by the Packers and they see that I worked at a grocery store and played arena football. What I see is that I played one year in college and I was the player of the year in our conference. I played three years in arena football, we played in the championship game twice and I was voted the best quarterback in the league for three years. I played one year in Europe, and I was statistically the best quarterback in Europe during that season.”
During Warner’s lone season with NFL Europe, in 1998, he led the league in passing yards and had the second-best passer rating and third-highest completion percentage, per FootballDB. In 1999, Warner played for the St. Louis Rams for the second year in a row, his first as a starter, and led them to a Super Bowl title.
“So when you see those moments when I wasn’t playing, or you hear arena football or NFL Europe, that kind of denotes, ‘Oh, this guy wasn’t very good, and now all of a sudden, holy cow, he’s really good.’ For me, all I held onto was when you put me between the lines, what was I able to do? And every time I was between the lines with the ball in my hands, I was really good.
“Everybody looks at it as such an incredible story because of all these bumps in the road, and I see that, because the journey was different. But the football part of it, football was football. You put a ball in my hands and you have to read a defense and make a throw, I could always do that. And so I didn’t see that as the challenge. For me, the challenge was staying ready and prepared and taking advantage of that opportunity if and when I finally got it. That’s what was avoiding me, not ‘I couldn’t figure out how to play this game.’ It was, ‘Would somebody finally give me an opportunity to actually do what I believe I do well?'”