COLUMN: For Warner, it was always about right time, right place


I never go to the movies. Well, let me rephrase that. I rarely go to the movies. However, over the weekend, I went to the theatre with my wife to see “American Underdog,” the film about the Kurt Warner story which was released Dec. 25.
Everyone knows the story, that Warner went from bagging groceries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Super Bowl MVP, and it’s remarkable. Is it really about football, though? I would argue it’s more about never giving up on your dream and being optimistic in every circumstance.
It truly takes a remarkable amount of persistence and resilience to count oneself out. I’m not certain about all of the details. Again, it’s a film, so there’s obviously a little bit of “artistic license” or possibly “narrative license” involved. The movie is based on Warner’s book “All Things Possible,” released in early February 2009 with assistance from sportswriter Michael Silver.
The best part about the film is that it doesn’t include a bunch of football highlights. Rather, it focuses more on the relationship of Warner and his girlfriend, Brenda, whom he meets at a line dancing bar near where he attended college.
Initially, Warner wants to be drafted into the NFL and get his shot at playing quarterback.
The focus for much of the film is more on his availability for Brenda, being there to assist with bringing balance and normalcy to the chaotic and uncertain life of a single mother with two children. Being there for the family is a task that may not make newspaper headlines and lead to endless accolades, but does a role that doesn’t pay anything have any less value or is of less importance?
I don’t think there is a scene of Warner’s character in a Rams’ uniform until at least an hour into the film. After not getting drafted, he had a training camp stint with the Green Bay Packers, then was asked to give Arena Football League a try and later had a stint with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.
The film provided a few scenes of Warner throwing passes toward a backyard tire or against an old shed. Of course, there also was a scene of him playing catch with a co-worker while stocking groceries at HyVee. This was the movie’s way of not letting Warner’s dream go unfulfilled. Eventually, a scout from the Rams has a conversation with Warner after a loss in the championship game of the Arena Football League.
Warner completed four-of-11 passes for St. Louis in the final game of the 1998 season, in which the Rams fluttered to a forgettable 4-12 season.
I do remember there was a lot of excitement and anticipation for the St. Louis Rams heading into the 1999 season. Projected starter Trent Green had completed 28 of 32 passes in the preseason before sustaining a devastating knee injury. (That I can remember those specific details probably reveals how much of a sports nerd I probably am).
“We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we’ll play good football,” Rams’ coach Dick Vermeil said at a press conference after the home preseason game in which Warner was elevated as the team’s starting quarterback.
From there, that’s where the football magic began, multiple touchdown passes and blowouts every week. Yes, there was a little adversity in the opening game of the season, a home win over the Ravens, but Warner showed he was capable of leading the offense in a 27-10 victory. Warner led St. Louis to a 6-0 record before the team’s first loss, then they reeled off seven straight victories, getting to 13-2 before a meaningless Week 17 game.
After a couple of home playoff victories, the Rams were on their way to the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Warner and the Rams started strong, but let the underdog Titans battle back into a 16-0 game in the second half as the offense struggled to move the football.
“Couldn’t ask for a better script! Let’s go win it right now!” Vermeil told Warner before St. Louis took possession late in the fourth quarter. Warner needed just one play to break a 16-all tie, finding wide receiver Isaac Bruce for the go-ahead touchdown. He was named the game’s MVP and also broke Joe Montana’s Super Bowl record for passing yards.
Warner went on to appear in 11 more playoff games, going 6-5 and appearing in two more Super Bowls, one with the Rams and another with the Arizona Cardinals on his way to a Hall of Fame career. For that 1999 season, Warner was the right guy for the right moment, leading a talented team to a championship. He was the best quarterback that both the Rams’ and Cardinals’ organizations ever had.
The football accomplishments are great, but they all pale in comparison to what’s more important and has a much more lasting impact, Warner being there for his wife and family.
-Thanks for reading!
Daniel Winningham is the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. He can be reached at 573-547-4567, ext. 227 or email


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