Kurt Warner went from grocery store stockboy to Super Bowl champion in an incredible career. Now the former Northern Iowa backup quarterback can add another accolade to his resume: Hall of Famer.
The two-time NFL MVP was one of five members of the league’s 2017 Hall of Fame class, eight years after ending his professional career.
Warner’s journey into the spotlight took a long and twisting path. He was a lightly-regarded prospect after starting just a single year at FCS Northern Iowa. He had a brief stint with the Packers the summer after his graduation, but couldn’t find a spot with the team and instead ended up with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League.
His three seasons in the AFL ended with a pair of all-league selections and an eventual place in the organization’s Hall of Fame. His success led him back to the NFL, but the Rams allocated him to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. His solid performance in 10 games overseas landed him a full time gig as Trent Green’s backup in Saint Louis for 1999.
After one underwhelming season in relief, he stepped into the team’s starting role when Green tore his ACL in a preseason game. Warner didn’t disappoint. He earned regular season and Super Bowl MVP honors after leading the Rams to a NFL title and threw for a league-high 41 touchdowns. Two seasons later, he repeated as MVP after throwing for more than 300 yards per game and leading his team to its second Super Bowl appearance in three years.
His career appeared to take a downturn after 2001. A broken finger and ineffective play in 2002 and 2003 convinced Saint Louis to hand the reins to Marc Bulger behind center. Warner moved to the New York Giants to serve as Eli Manning’s mentor for one season before signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
His first two seasons in the desert included just 15 starts and a 17:14 TD:INT ratio, but he found his footing as his career wound down. A Pro Bowl season in 2008 pushed the Cardinals into Super Bowl XLIII, where they lost to the Steelers. He led Arizona back to the playoffs the following year before announcing his retirement early in 2010.
Warner ended his career holding several NFL records, including the three highest passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history. He was the fastest player to reach 10,000 passing yards in his career. He’s also just the third quarterback to throw 100 touchdown passes for two separate teams.