Kurt Warner, 38 year old QB of the Arizona Cardinals, has a news conference planned for tomorrow at which he is expected to announce his retirement. To say that Warner has had a roller-coaster career would be an understatement. After completing his college career and not getting drafted by an NFL team, he was invited to the Green Bay Packers’ training camp in 1994 for tryouts, but was released before the regular season began. (Warner was competing for a spot against Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.)
As a result, Warner soon found himself stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store for $5.50 an hour. He also went back to Northern Iowa and worked as an assistant coach, still hoping for another NFL tryout. No invitations were forthcoming, so he turned to the Arena Football League, and in 1995 signed with the Iowa Barnstormers. He led the Barnstormers to the Arena Bowl in both 1996 and 1997. He subsequently requested and received a tryout with the Chicago Bears, but an injury to his throwing elbow caused by a spider bite he got during his honeymoon prevented him from attending. (Seriously.)
He finally signed with the St. Louis Rams in ’98, and was shipped off to NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals, where he wound up leading the league in touchdowns and passing yards. He returned to the US for the start of the 1998 NFL season and played third string behind Tony Banks and Steve Bono. Warner finally got his shot in 1999 after Banks and Bono were both released. The Rams had planned on starting free agent signing Trent Green, but Green tore his ACL in the pre-season. Warner ended up putting together one of the top seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdown passes and a completion rate of 65.1%. He was named the 1999 NFL MVP at the season’s end, and led the Rams to a Super Bowl win.
In 2001, Warner led the Rams to another Super Bowl, making his second appearance in the big game, but the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Rams were forgettable. He was replaced as starter in the middle of the 2003 season after a game against the Giants in which he fumbled six times. The Giants appreciated that so much, that after the Rams released him in 2004, the Giants signed him 2 days later. Warner started the 2004 season as the Giants’ starting quarterback, winning five of his first seven games, but following a two-game losing streak, highly-touted rookie quarterback Eli Manning was given the starting job.
Warner subsequently signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2005, and has played with them up till now, making several post season appearances, including his third Super Bowl appearance in February of 2009, in which they lost to Pittsburgh.
Throughout his career, through all the ups and downs, Kurt Warner has remained a classy guy. If he does indeed retire tomorrow as expected, I’m betting he’ll stay retired. He’s not the type to string a team (or a league, or the fans) along for his own amusement or greed. This is a guy who knows when to call it a career, and as he does everything else, he will do it with class.
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