GAZETTE CLASSICS: KURT WARNER FILE
Select articles from Gazette text archives, 1998-2008
Warner’s new job ‘a dream’
Rams keep C.R. native in quarterback stable
By J.R. Ogden
Gazette assistant sports editor
Kurt Warner always knew he had the tools and the talent.
But, he felt at times, it just wasn’t in the cards.
A former Cedar Rapids Regis and Northern Iowa quarterback, Warner made his first National Football League roster Tuesday when the St. Louis Rams released Will Furrer. That move made the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Warner the Rams’ No.3 quarterback.
“I always hoped and this was always a dream of mine,” he said Wednesday.
Warner’s path to the NFL has been filled with many potholes.
He sat on the bench for three years at UNI before responding with an all-Gateway Conference season as a senior. He was cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994 without, he felt, getting a fair shot at the job.
He played with the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League for three successful seasons, but that was too far removed from his dream.
He worried the call from the NFL would never come.
He got that call last November, but under one condition – he’d have to spend a season with the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe – with no guarantees.
He responded by leading the league with 2,101 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just six interceptions.
“Every time I’ve been given an opportunity, I’ve taken it and made the most of it,” said Warner, who also has gone through the death of his wife’s parents in a tornado and raising a 9-year-old son who was left blind after an accident. His wife, Brenda, also is expecting the couple’s third child in October.
“I’ve been able to grow as a player and as a person,” he added.
But now, at age 27, the challenge is finally the NFL.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve been working for this for a long time.”
And he’s not done yet.
“It’s just one more step,” he said. “I’ve got a few more I want to make, but it’s a big step.
“I’m ready to take this step and see what I can do with it.”
Warner said he impressed the Rams coaching staff with his season in Europe and by picking up the offense with relative ease. He must have done something right in practice because he’s played in only a few series during the preseason, completing all four of his pass attempts for 25 yards.
“I really didn’t have the opportunity to win or lose the position with what I did on the field,” he said.
“Sometimes it just takes one guy seeing something somebody else didn’t.”
Rams Coach Dick Vermeil said Warner simply has a “natural feel.
“I think everybody on the offensive football team is impressed with him,” Vermeil said in a St. Louis Dispatch story.
Warner thought the Rams had big plans for him, but there were a few anxious moments as the first cuts were made.
“I was worried,” he said. “(But) I had an indication that they wanted to keep me for potential reasons, just to see what was there.
“They knew my future wasn’t this year, that it was going to be a process.”
Warner, who joins fellow Cedar Rapids prep/UNI star Dedric Ward in the NFL, will make the league minimum this year – “Somewhere around $150,000,” he said. “For me, it’s just an opportunity. I’m not playing the game for the money.”
But it’s not bad for doing something you love.
“It’s not bad for doing something you don’t like,” he said with a laugh.
PERSONAL – Born June 22, 1971; high school graduate of Cedar Rapids Regis; degree in communications from the University of Northern Iowa; 6-2, 220-pound starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams in the National Football League.
HIGH SCHOOL – Lettered twice in football and basketball, once in baseball at Cedar Rapids Regis. Led football and basketball teams to postseason play his senior year. Played in state football all-star game, the Shrine Bowl. Football all-stater.
COLLEGE – Backed up quarterback Jay Johnson for three years, then earned Gateway offensive player of the year for Northern Iowa in 1993. Completed 173 of 296 passes for 2,747 yards and 17 touchdowns while guiding Panthers to 8-4 season and spot in the Division I-AA playoffs.
ARENA FOOTBALL – Passed for 10,164 yards and 183 touchdowns in three seasons (1995-97) with the Iowa Barnstormers in Des Moines.
Led team to two straight Arena Bowl appearances. Holds all of the Barnstormers’ individual passing records.
NFL EUROPE – Played for the Amsterdam Admirals in 1998, starting all 10 games. He led the league in passing yards with 2,101, completions (165), attempts (326) and touchdowns (15).
NFL – Signed with the Rams in December 1997, then beat out Will Furrer in 1998 training camp for the third QB position. Got his break this fall when starter Trent Green was injured in preseason.
Has led Rams to two straight victories and this week was named the NFC’s offensive player of the week.
Warner delivers yet again
AT THE SUPER BOWL
By Mike Hlas
Gazette sports columnist
ATLANTA – Disney staged the halftime show at Sunday’s Super Bowl XXXIV. But a real-life quarterback from Cedar Rapids was the biggest star in a much better show, one of the most thrilling football games a worldwide television audience has ever seen.
“He is a book,” St. Louis Rams Coach Dick Vermeil about Kurt Warner after the game. “He is a movie.”
“I don’t think of it as a Hollywood story,” Warner said. “It’s just my life.”
Life is good.
In a Super Bowl stuffed with as much drama as any of the previous 33, Warner threw the game-winning touchdown with 1:54 remaining.
That gave the St. Louis Rams a 23-16 lead over the Tennessee Titans that held up by a yard-long sliver on the game’s final play.
When Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled at the Rams 1-yard line as time expired, the Vince Lombardi Trophy became the property of St. Louis for the first time.
Warner shattered Joe Montana’s Super Bowl record of 357 passing yards with 414. He broke the record on his 45th and last pass of the game, a 73-yard scoring toss to Isaac Bruce. He earned the game’s Most Valuable Player award to go with the NFL regular-season MVP honor he was given last month.
It capped a rather incredible season, wouldn’t you say?
It was a million yards and a million years from the late 1980s, when neither Iowa nor Iowa State offered Regis High School’s Warner an athletics scholarship to play football. So he grabbed the only scholarship that was dangled, a partial one from Northern Iowa. Thus began an odyssey that took him to some football outposts that simply do not send quarterbacks where he has arrived.
UNI. Arena Football. NFL Europe.
You can’t get here from there? Guess again.
You can’t get here from playing in Kingston Stadium on fall Friday nights? Wrong.
“I always believed in myself,” Warner said on the Georgia Dome field, covered with confetti as he accepted post-game laurels.
“And I’ve got a whole bunch of people here that believed in me.”
With a Super Bowl championship ring headed his way, now everyone should believe in him. With a 414-yard, two-touchdown passing display in the sport’s most important game, anyone who doubts Warner’s skill and heart suffers from a distorted sense of reality.
But Warner was just one of the standouts in a game the Rams will always feel fortunate to have won. He had plenty of trials and tribulations in the contest, thanks to a Tennessee defense that resembled Shaquille O’Neal when it came to knocking balls out of the air.
The Rams had the red-zone blues in the first half. With Warner throwing a myriad of lovely spirals when they weren’t getting batted away, St. Louis moved the ball almost at ease in getting inside the Tennessee 20-yard line five times in the half. However, they had to settle for three field goals and two bungled field goal attempts.
That changed on their first possession of the second half when Warner zapped a 9-yard TD strike to rookie Torry Holt midway through the third quarter for a 16-0 St. Louis lead. It looked like an umpteenth Rams rout was en route.
That’s when Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair, began playing with every bit as much resolve as his St. Louis counterpart. While Warner and the Rams’ offense started stalling, McNair and pounding running back Eddie George took the Titans on three successive scoring drives good for two touchdowns and a field goal.
Al Del Greco’s 43-yarder tied the game at 16 with 2:12 left.
All the karma in the stadium was with Tennessee. The Titans were called a team of destiny all Super Bowl week, having come from behind in the second half of each of their three AFC playoff triumphs. It felt like they had seized control of that destiny.
But St. Louis offensive coordinator Mike Martz hasn’t been a tuck-it-in kind of coach this season as his team ruled the NFL in offensive statistics. On the first play from the 27, Warner heaved a pass down the right sideline to Bruce. It was slightly underthrown, which only allowed Bruce to stop, back up a step, catch the ball and shake away from Tennessee cornerback Denard Walker.
“I kind of ducked under him,” Bruce said. “After that, it was a race to the end zone.”
That race went to the swiftest, Bruce.
“We had called a play earlier and they told me Isaac could beat him,” Warner said. “So we knew we needed a big play, and Isaac is our go-to guy and he came up with the big play for us.”
McNair deftly responded by taking the Titans from their 12 to a first-and-goal at the St. Louis 10. Six seconds remained. The call was a pass up the middle to Dyson, a second-year receiver whom Tennessee drafted ahead of Minnesota Vikings star Randy Moss in 1998. Dyson was wrapped up at the waist by Ram linebacker Mike Jones and dropped at the 1.
Dyson stretched out to stick the ball across the goal line, but he had been downed at the 1 and knew it. Warner threw for 414 yards, but 1/414th of that total decided the game at the end.
It was a sizzling finish to one of the rare Super Bowls that is genuinely exciting to the end. And when it was over, Warner hustled over to the front row of the stands for his now-traditional post-victory kiss from his wife, Brenda.
Brenda Warner’s husband is the toast of football. A kid from Cedar Rapids is atop the sporting world.
Kurt Warner breaks Super Bowl passing yardage record, nails title of Super Bowl MVP and cements his status as a Super hero
Warner rises from the bottom to reign at the top
AT THE SUPER BOWL
By Mike Hlas
Gazette sports columnist
ATLANTA – It wasn’t the best pass Kurt Warner ever threw, but it was the best pass Kurt Warner ever threw.
With his St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans engaged in a 16-16 tie late in Sunday’s Super Bowl at the Georgia Dome, the son of Cedar Rapids heaved a long throw down the right sideline to All-Pro receiver Isaac Bruce.
Bruce had to stop and back up a step to catch the ball at the Titans’ 42-yard line. He then eluded Tennessee’s defense to blaze for a touchdown with 1:54 remaining. The Rams’ defense withstood a furious Titans rally that ended at the St. Louis 1 as time elapsed, and Warner’s team had become football kings of the world with their 23-16 coronation.
“As you know,” Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz said after the game, “a lot of times those (underthrows) are the best ones.”
Warner did throw all sorts of passes that were looked as sharp asthe Ford F-150 truck he will be presented with at a press conference here this morning. He set a Super Bowl record for passing yardage with 414, breaking Joe Montana’s 11-year-old mark of 357. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, joining an elite list that includes quarterbacks such as Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and the great Montana.
But none of those legends of the game had a success story as unlikely as Warner’s. By game time Sunday, just about every newspaper in the country had mentioned that the former Regis High School student had stocked shelves at night in a Cedar Falls Hy-Vee for six months in 1995 while working out during the daytime.
At the time, Warner was hoping to get another shot in the NFL in pro football. He was released by the Green Bay Packers in training camp the summer of 1994 after his senior season at the University of Northern Iowa. He played Arena Football with the Iowa Barnstormers for three years. He played in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals. He finally hooked on in the NFL with the Rams in 1998, barely. He played a mop-up role in the fourth quarter of the last game of the ’98 season, impressing no one.
That normally is the story of a journeyman, not an NFL regular-season and Super Bowl MVP.
Warner was pressed into starting service in 1999 late in the preseason because expensive free-agent signee Trent Green – who, coincidentally, was born in Cedar Rapids – blew out a knee. Rams fans, coaches and players were devastated. Until Warner threw three TD passes in the season-opener. You know the rest.
“It has been a great year,” Warner said after the game.
“What else can you say? It has been tremendous. I am truly blessed.”
Asked if he was an inspiration for the overlooked of the world, he answered, “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t reach it, no matter what you have to do along the way, as long as you keep that dream inside of you and believe that you can accomplish it.
“As I have always said, if I could be a source of hope to anybody out there, then I am happy to be a part of it. But when it is your life, you just take it day by day. You take what the good Lord gives you and you use it to the best way you can, following the things that he has got in store for you.”
Warner’s rise from obscurity to national acclaim has been called a fairy tale by reporters from all over the nation and beyond.
“Kurt Warner is Kurt Warner,” Rams Coach Dick Vermeil said. “It is not a fairy tale; it is real life. He is an example of what we all like to be on and off the field. He is a great example of persistence and believing in himself and a deep faith.
“What else can you write? He is a movie. He is a book, this guy.”
Warner undoubtedly will be a movie and a book or two later this year. They will have the happiest of endings.
On top of the world
Rams’ Warner an agent’s dream
By Mike Hlas
Gazette sports columnist
AT THE SUPER BOWL
ATLANTA – Somewhere out there, someone who is an agent or used to be one is kicking himself. He may have several broken toes by now.
“I signed with an agent out of college,” Kurt Warner said here Monday morning. “After I got cut by Green Bay (in 1994) he really didn’t do much for me so I decided to get rid of him. Haven’t heard from him since.”
Warner’s current agent was probably one of the busiest people in the country Monday. The client is one hot property. On Monday morning network news shows, a commercial with Warner touting Disney World already was airing.
It should be a very interesting off-season in the Warner household.
With a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award in tow after his St. Louis Rams staved off the Tennessee Titans, 23-16, Sunday in the Georgia Dome, the former Cedar Rapidian has about as much marketability as a football player gets.
Super Bowl MVPs do even better than regular-season MVPs when it comes to endorsement opportunities. Just ask the last two Super Bowl honorees, Denver Broncos Terrell Davis and John Elway.
“I don’t know what’s out there,” Warner said.
“I know there were some things that (his agents) kind of kept until the off-season. So I’ll probably find out in the next couple weeks.
“I want to take advantage of some things, where I can go out and share my story a little bit, share my faith in God with some people and get an opportunity to use the position that came upon me to touch peoples’ lives in that way.”
But there’s money to be made, too, a chance for Warner to set up himself, his wife and three children to ever be without financial cares again.
“I guess I’m gonna have to sit down and check things out and see what’s best for me and my family,” he said, “things that I might not get a chance to do ever again, and take advantage of those.”
The Rams survived a sensational Tennessee second-half rally to win Sunday. The game-deciding score was Warner’s 73-yard pass play to Isaac Bruce with 1:54 left. Warner let the pass fly just as he was getting nailed by Titans rookie phenom Jevon Kearse.
Words can’t describe how remarkable Warner’s season and story is. It borders on absurd. Elway didn’t get cut in his first pro training camp. Joe Montana didn’t play Arena Football or have to prove himself in NFL Europe. Steve Young wasn’t signed as an undrafted free agent who would try to make an NFL team as its No.3 quarterback.
“When I first started dating my wife she was on food stamps and I was in between (football) jobs,” Warner said. “I was stocking groceries for $5.50 an hour. A lot of tough decisions, a lot of tough things we had to go through and really figure out what was important. And I still wanted to play football so I had to try to balance that.
“A lot of things like that, I think, have helped keep things in perspective for us. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at and in the position we’re in.”
The NFL is fortunate, too. In a season that has seen one of its players arrested for murder, the league has to love this clean-cut guy with the perpetual stubble.
“Kurt Warner restores our faith and dreams in fairy tales,” NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday.
“Many people were wondering whether the dream or the fairy tale would end, but it hasn’t yet.”
It will probably never be this good for Warner again, football-wise. The Rams should have the guts of their team back with only four unrestricted free agents. Only four of their starters are 30 or older. But they’ll play a much harder schedule next season, they aren’t likely to have so few injuries, and the difference between winning and not winning a championship is tiny.
St. Louis Coach Dick Vermeil knows that, and already has part of his brain focused on the 2000 season. Yes, he delighted in his team’s achievement Monday. But he is, after all, a football coach.
“We’ve become such a finesse team that we’ve lost a little edge of toughness in the trenches,” Vermeil moaned.
Warner is on top of the world right now, but Vermeil wants him to go higher.
“I said this to our coaches the other day,” Vermeil said, “that as the season wears on I think some of his quarterback fundamentals started to disintegrate a little bit.
“We’re going to have to treat him just like an offensive lineman. You’ve got to keep working on the fundamentals.”
Vermeil said some of Warner’s passes that were deflected by the Titans were a result of his delivery.
Part of the problem, Vermeil said, was Warner “throwing with the arm being a little bit low, and not getting set up properly.
“We can work on all those things and improve them.”
This for a quarterback who passed for a Super Bowl-record 414 yards after leading the league in completion percentage and passing rating as a first-year starter.
If Warner can make significant improvement, they may need to build a wing for him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But next season is next season. Monday, Warner and the Rams returned to St. Louis for a big-time celebration. Today, he and nine family members are Hawaii-bound for next Sunday’s Pro Bowl. He left Atlanta with a much better feeling about the Georgia city than the first time he spent several days here.
“It was miserable,” Warner said. “I didn’t want to come back here.”
It was for an NFL Europe tryout camp. The weather then was cold and rainy, much like it was this past weekend. The training camp then was the same facility the Rams used here for the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons’ plant in suburban Suwanee. But he got a deal with the Amsterdam Admirals because of it, his last step before signing with St. Louis.
“It’s kind of funny how things work out,” Warner said.
You could say that.
Television series tonight about Warner is compelling
By JR Ogden
Gazette Sports Editor
Kurt Warner begins his third season as a starting quarterback in the National Football League today in Philadelphia.
Warner and the St. Louis Rams open against the Eagles in a 3:15 p.m. game that will be televised by KFXA.
Warner will try to regain the magic that propelled the Rams to Super Bowl champions following the 1999 season and himself into a superstar.
Warner’s “bags to riches” story has been well-documented. For those who don’t know the story or have short memories, Fox Sports Net will feature Warner in its “Beyond the Glory” documentary series tonight.
The one-hour program will air at 8 tonight.
It’s worth a look. It’s good. It’s interesting.
It’s entertaining and well-made.
There is some some great footage of Cedar Rapids, showing Warner’s childhood home and where he and brother, Matt, used to play football – a southeast side cemetery. It has the obligatory cornfield shots – what national media can’t talk about Iowa with a cornfield? – and some interesting interviews with his parents, brothers, friends and Rams teammates.
If you know the Warner story at all, you won’t find any new information about the Burlington native and former Cedar Rapids Regis quarterback.
But it does a good job chronicling Warner’s story – from standout high school athlete to Northern Iowa backup, from UNI star to failed NFL tryouts, from working for $5.50 an hour at a grocery store to Barnstormers sensation, from NFL Europe to NFL MVP.
There’s a compelling segment about the tornado that killed Brenda Warner’s parents, Kurt’s in-laws. That tragedy brought the two closer together and helped mold Kurt’s strong Christian faith, which is evident throughout the program.
Warner talks about his season in Amsterdam and walking through the red light district. His teammates would give him a hard time about seeing this religious man in such an environment.
“I knew that there was a reason I was there and that was to move on through and get to church,” he said.
But mostly this a story about an Iowa boy who grew up to be a professional athlete, a bonafide NFL star who cherishes his time with friends and family.
A man who realized his dream despite many nightmares.
“All kids grow up and dream of being an athlete, but there’s something different when Kurt would say it,” his brother, Matt, said. “He really believed it.”
It’s still a great story.
It officially starts today – Sundays are all about football. Mowing the grass will have to wait.
The NFL kicks off the same weekend as the Metro Youth Football Association. I’m looking forward to both.
When I’m not walking the sidelines at the MYFA complex watching my son, Ben, on Sundays, I’ll be stationed in front of my television, watching my beloved Bears muddle through another season.
Football is my favorite spectator sport – whether it’s the youngsters in the MYFA, the high schools, colleges or pros.
Unfortunately, it looks like another long season for the Bears.
I’ll watch when I can, but I’m not expecting much.
Baltimore could be tough again, but has been hurt by injuries.
Tennessee has been picked by some to win it all.
Watch out for those Florida teams – Miami and Tampa Bay – and the Rams could be in for another super season if the defense can defend.
But for the Super Bowl champ, I’ll have to go with the Oakland Raiders. They have the best coach in the business.
Warner coming home, for himself and others
By Mike Hlas
He’ll be 37 next month, which means Kurt Warner has lived half his life away from his Cedar Rapids hometown.
“It feels like home away home,” he said. “It’s where my extended family still lives. I still have a lot of friends there. I’ve come back to do a number of things there, whether it’s for my foundation or just to visit. It continually makes me aware of the encouragement and support I’ve gotten there, the instrumental values I had instilled in me at a young age.”
That might sound like a lot of platitudes if it didn’t have teeth behind it.
The Kurt Warner First Things First Foundation has conducted football clinics in Cedar Rapids for Special Olympics participants, with the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player being as hands-on as he could be at them. He has targeted Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, where he played for the Iowa Barnstormers, as a site for a Warner’s Corner, a “fun zone” for pediatric patients.
The night of May 25, Warner is hosting “An Evening With Champions” at Cedar Rapids’ Paramount Theatre. It’s a fundraiser and awareness-raiser for First Things First.
Golfer Zach Johnson, who followed Warner to Regis High School and pro sports glory, will be part of the event. Warner will give a talk, and he and Johnson will hold a question-and-answer session with the audience.
“It’s a chance for myself and Zach to say thanks to the people of Cedar Rapids and around Iowa who have supported us throughout our careers,” Warner said last week from Phoenix. “It’s also a chance to share our stories and hopefully encourage other people who have a few dreams.
“The second objective is to make people aware of what our foundation is trying to do, not only in Iowa but around the country. I’m trying to use my platform and situation to help better the world around us and join hands with other people who are doing that.”
Few pro athletes of renown tout their Christian beliefs as often or as loudly as Warner. He admits that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Likewise, Johnson caught ridicule in certain circles for saying Jesus walked with him as he played the final round of the 2007 Masters he won.
“Negative media comes with sharing your faith,” he said. “People don’t always like it when you make it the forefront of what you do, especially in athletics. A lot of people don’t think faith and athletics really should mix. I’ve lost a number of endorsements that could have been connected to my foundation because it’s openly Christian-based, and they shy away from it. So it suffers in that regard.
“But I’m happy to face those things for the sake of my faith in God and what I believe in. For all those who say no, God will connect me with the right people who want to do right by people.”
Touting your faith is one thing, living it is another. Whatever your religious beliefs or non-beliefs, isn’t Warner who most of us want prominent athletes to be? He lives within the law, and lives for people other than himself. Take a quick look at www.kurtwarner.org and go to “Projects.”
Warner and his wife, Brenda, escort kids with life-threatening illnesses to Disney World every year. They help low-income families make homeownership a reality. They’ve organized winter coat drives ever since they were in St. Louis in 2001. They’ve created F.U.N. (Fundamentals You Need) for adolescents in St. Louis, New Jersey, Phoenix and Waterloo, rewarding them for attendance, grade and behavior requirements in their schools.
There’s a lot more. Warner said it all goes back to his childhood in Cedar Rapids.
“When I would play football at the Jane Boyd Center, there were coaches there who had an impact on my life. They volunteered their time. That really stuck with me. As I dreamed all those years ago about playing in the NFL, I always told myself when I got there I wanted to give something back.
“We actually share our time, building relationships with the people we work with. It’s not just writing checks.”
Warner’s cause is helped greatly by remaining a prominent figure in football, seven years after his second MVP award and Super Bowl trip with St. Louis. Is it already nine years since he emerged from obscurity to help rocket the Rams to a world championship?
When Matt Leinart injured his shoulder and was done for the season after the Cardinals’ fourth game, Warner showed a lot of what he produced during his great Rams run. He had 27 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions. He had three TD throws in each of Arizona’s final four games. He totaled 669 passing yards in the last two games, both wins.
Nothing is resolved in Phoenix about who will start for the Cardinals when they open the 2008 season. Leinart is the Heisman Trophy-winning glamour guy from USC. Warner was undrafted out of Northern Iowa, getting to the NFL by way of Arena Football and NFL Europe. He also is the more-proven commodity of the two.
“I was happy with the way I performed last year,” Warner said. “I really helped our offense make some huge strides the last eight games of the year and I’m very proud of that. It was one of my best seasons in the NFL. We had one of the top 10 offenses in the league and one of the top five scoring offenses.
“I believe I still have enough left to throw 30 or more touchdown passes and have another great year.”
As we came to realize many years ago, a good way to look silly is to doubt Warner when he thinks he can accomplish something.
The end of the beginning
Kurt Warner tours flood-ravaged C.R. neighborhoods
By Mike Hlas
CEDAR RAPIDS — Lucky Me, begins a message written in black paint on a white house in this city’s Time Check neighborhood. It wasn’t a bit sarcastic.
I Had Great Neighbors, the message continued. I Will Miss You All — Kathy.
Riding in an American Red Cross emergency response vehicle Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner got a clear view of Kathy’s house and so many others in his Cedar Rapids hometown that were wrecked by last month’s flood of the Cedar River. He got two eyefuls of the rubble and a snootful of the stench.
“To drive along and see the number of homes that were affected, the number of families that are going to have to start over,” Warner said, “it kind of made me sick to my stomach to think of where they’re going to go.”
The two-time National Football League MVP didn’t make any bones about his reason for being here. This was a photo opportunity, a chance to get in front of television cameras. He gave Cardinals T-shirts to people, shook lots of hands. The visit, however, sure didn’t have the feel of self-promotion. Rather, it was an attempt to help keep the effects of the flood in the public’s consciousness.
“I think there’s always the initial push by people to help out, whether it be corporations or individuals,” Warner said. “But it becomes out of sight, out of mind. You forget about how long it’s going to take these families or this community to rebuild. Once it’s not a headline or a breaking story it gets pushed in the background.”
The severity of the damage is a see-it-to-believe-it deal, and Warner said he needed to see it to fully get it.
“I think it’s hard, when you look at still pictures in the newspaper or you hear a report miles and miles away from a news reporter, to get a sense of what’s really going on,” Warner said. “Everybody should be brought down here to drive by and see what’s going on. I think that’s the way you can get people to really react positively and help make an impact on the community.”
So the Red Cross, for which Warner served on its National Celebrity Cabinet for two years, took Warner into the heart of the ravaged areas to take free food and water to people, and to its Prairie High School shelter for people displaced from their homes because of flooding.
It didn’t have the feel of a normal celebrity drop-in, if there is such a thing. Those who were cleaning out houses in the Ellis Boulevard NW area are so used to seeing the Red Cross vehicles that they paid little attention. Some had no idea who Warner was. Others did and seemed glad to see him.
“Kurt’s here? In person?” said Ed Arkema of Cedar Rapids, a volunteer with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, who was helping clear out a house on Eighth Street NW.
“Glad to see you,” Arkema told Warner.
“I wish I could do more,” Warner replied.
“We’re all doing what we can,” Arkema told him.
Warner said his goal is to keep the images he saw Tuesday and take them back to people with the National Football League and other organizations.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to come down here,” he said, “to really get a sense of things. Hopefully, we can be impassioned to take that back to the people we work with and other contacts that we have, and hopefully connect and join hands and do something in the long term to help the community.
“The idea has to be to try to keep it in the forefront of peoples’ minds in whatever way we can to continue to get people to reach out and to help this community.”
Meanwhile, in the humidity and the stink of a gray July day, volunteers and victims kept doing the slow job of emptying shells of houses. And neighborhoods.
Warner making strong bid for Cardinals starting job
By Scott Dochterman
Former Cedar Rapids Regis quarterback Kurt Warner quietly has turned the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback position from an anointment to tossup.
Warner, 37, started against Kansas City on Saturday and looked sharp. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 54 yards. He now has pushed former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who was declared as the team’s starter this off-season, to a draw for the starting QB job.
Few athletes have experienced the highs and lows more than Warner. After a well-documented rags-to-riches rise in St. Louis that led to a pair of NFL MVP awards, Warner inexplicably struggled in his final two seasons there. He left for New York in 2004 and started nine games before giving way to Eli Manning.
Warner then went to Arizona, starting 15 games in two seasons before Leinart, a 2006 first-round pick, took over. Last season, he spelled Leinart in no-huddle situations for the first five games. Leinart then suffered a broken collarbone, and Warner started the final 11 games. He ended the season throwing for 27 touchdowns — one away from a team record — and 3,417 yards.
“I think what revitalized my career is the opportunity to be on a team that’s competitive,” Warner told The Arizona Republic, “to be in a situation where I’m able to do what I’m capable of doing, and I think that’s what was missing in New York.
“I had a pretty good season there, all things considered. We won. But it just wasn’t my style of football, and that’s what people saw.”
Arizona fans like what they see so far. The Arizona Republic is conducting a quarterback poll on its Web site. Nearly 55 percent of the fans have voted for Warner to start this season.
Warner to start ahead of Leinart for Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. — Kurt Warner will be Arizona’s starting quarterback for the season opener at San Francisco.
Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Saturday that he chose Warner over Matt Leinart because the former MVP “gives us the best chance to win.”
Last season, Warner threw for 27 touchdowns and had an 89.8 quarterback rating.
Quarterback of the present
Warner gets starting nod for Cardinals at 37
By Scott Dochterman
Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls in three years. He since has become more of a warm-up act than a main attraction.
After five years of spot duty as an NFL quarterback, life changed in 2007 for Warner, a Cedar Rapids Regis and Northern Iowa graduate. Arizona Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to play him in no-huddle situations. Warner played well. Then starting quarterback Matt Leinart broke his collarbone, and Warner continued to ascend. In 11 games he threw 27 touchdowns, one shy of the Cardinals’ team record.
Warner entered 2008 camp still a backup to the 25-year-old Leinart but outplayed the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner in the preseason. When it came down to tabbing a starter, Whisenhunt picked Warner’s performance over Leinart’s future. Whisenhunt chose the 37-year-old Warner to open the season as the starter.
“It’s probably rare to see it play out this way than the other,” Warner said on the Cardinals’ Web site. “(Teams) are always looking for the next guy to be able to run the show.
“You also realize in this business … you want to win now and who’s going to give us that best chance to win now.”
Whisenhunt made no apologies for the selection. He acknowledged Leinart likely will play at some point this season but said Warner won the job.
“It was a fair evaluation of that position,” Whisenhunt said on the Web site.
Warner’s career accolades rank near the top of the NFL’s all-time list. He’s second all-time in completion percentage, third all-time in passer rating and has the second-most passing yards in a season (4,830 in 2001). He reached 20,000 passing yards faster than any other quarterback except Dan Marino. He won the NFL MVP award twice and was named Super Bowl XXXIV MVP after throwing for an NFL-record 424 passing yards. He has 24,008 passing yards, 152 touchdowns and 100 interceptions.
Additional information available at the Arizona Cardinals page for Kurt Warner.
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