Kurt Warner is the current starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, and his life story is rather inspirational to say the least. He went from being told that he wasn't good enough to play football at a Division I school to having a strong career at one, then reaching the NFL and basically being told he wasn't good enough to play there either. He was fired by the Green Bay Packers and wound up playing in the Arena Football League and stocking shelves at the local HyVee grocery store to make ends meet. Four years later, he got his chance once again and had one of the greatest individual seasons that a quarterback has ever had at the professional level.
Kurt Warner was born June 22, 1971, in Burlington, Iowa, and his family moved when he was young to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He excelled at several sports in high school, including baseball and basketball, but his real talent shined through in football. Teachers of his during his high school years mostly say that he was quiet and very serious and wouldn't let any drawback get him down, a demeanor that would pay off in his future. He was recruited by several major football schools (such as the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois), but none of them offered him any type of scholarship, stating that they doubted that he would be a success in a Division 1 football program.
Undaunted, Kurt went to the University of Northern Iowa in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and had a splendid collegiate career there, defying the expectations of those who said he was not good enough in high school. He played backup there until his senior year, but his final year there was magnificent. He led the conference in total offense and passing efficiency and was named the conference offensive player of the year in 1993. After his stellar senior year, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and attended their training camp in 1994, hoping to earn the backup slot behind incumbent quarterback and three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre. To say that the training camp was a disaster was an understatement; his very quick throwing style meshed badly with the offense built around Favre, who would often step back and wait for receivers to get open. As a result of this, Favre and the coaching staff were very hard on Warner, even going so far as to sarcastically call him Pop Warner after an old-time football coach who stayed around too long. Kurt got the final hint when in September of 1994, the Green Bay Packers issued him a pink slip.
He went back home to Iowa and got a job bagging groceries in the Cedar Rapids area. After a few months of licking his wounds, he tried out for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, a small independent football league played indoors that rewards speed over everything else. Impressed with Kurt's quickness, he quickly won the starting quarterback job there, so he spent 1995 and 1996 leading the team to two straight Arena Bowl appearances (Arena's version of the Super Bowl) while still bagging groceries to help make ends meet.
In July 1997, after seeing his success, the St. Louis Rams signed Kurt Warner and assigned him to play in Europe on an NFL Europe squad to gain a year of seasoning. He played over there in 1998 and returned to the St. Louis Rams' training camp in 1999, hoping to earn the backup quarterback job behind starter Trent Green.
During training camp that year, Trent Green suffered a season-ending injury, so the team quickly had to come up with an alternate plan for their starting quarterback job for the season. Since Warner was the only quarterback of any talent in the camp, the team ran a few practices with him as the starter on a trial basis... and everything seemed to click. He won the starting spot for the 1999 season with the team, on the condition that Trent Green would return and take the job in 2000. The Rams still believed that their future was with Green and that Warner was an interim fix.
In 1999, Kurt Warner had one of the best individual seasons that an NFL quarterback has ever had. He completed 325 of 499 passes for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 109.2, the best rating over a complete season ever in the NFL. He was also named regular season MVP and he led the team to a Super Bowl win, also earning the Super Bowl MVP award.
2000 wasn't quite as successful, although he had a very good season. He was injured partway through the season and missed several weeks, returning too late for the team to make the playoffs. 2001, however, shows Kurt back in his 1999 form, and through the first four weeks of the season, the Rams are the only undefeated team in the league.
Kurt Warner is a great example of how no matter how bad things seem to be going, if you keep working toward your dreams and want it bad enough, you can make it.