Sunday, February 1, 2009

Home Town Boy Continues to Make Good

Sunday, February 1, 2009 6:40 PM CST
Warner wins Walter Payton award

TAMPA, FLA. --- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, a former University of Northern Iowa Panther, was presented with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year awarded during Super Bowl pregame festivities Sunday that included the honoring of US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and the crew from Flight 1549.
Warner was selected over Minnesota's Matt Birk and Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins, the other finalists for the award that recognizes players for charitable and community involvement off the field.

The Cardinals quarterback formed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity after visiting regions affected by flooding last year and has raised more than $650,000 to help build homes in the Midwest.

Warner made a $100,000 personal contribution and another $100,000 was donated by his foundation.

Since creating the First Things First Foundation in 2001, the quarterback has made more than $1.5 million in contributions to help sponsor trips for Make-A-Wish families and numerous other charitable causes.

Defensive end Jason Taylor won last year. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Payton's widow, Connie, made the presentation.

Yep. Where I come from, we love Kurt Warner. A lot. That boy seriously loves his God and publicly speaks of it. He is a committed family man and has his priorities straight. He returns to the Cedar Valley frequently to participate in home town parades, flood relief, etc.
Here is his very impressive bio. If sports make you snore (as they do me), you may skip all but the first 3 paragraphs.

Kurtis Eugene Warner
(born June 22, 1971 in Burlington, Iowa) is an American football quarterback currently playing for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.

Warner's story is one of the most inspirational in American sports. He grew up in an abusive family situation and, after years of anonymity and tribulation, he developed into a very successful NFL quarterback. Warner studied and played football at Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and went on to do the same at University of Northern Iowa. During college, he met his future wife Brenda (who also grew up in an abusive family situation and had an abusive previous marriage), whom he married in 1997 in which he adopted her two children. They are both born-again Christians.

After college, he attended the Green Bay Packers training camp in 1994, but was released from the team. Later he worked at the Cedar Falls Hy-Vee Food Store stocking shelves before being signed by the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, in 1995. Warner was named to the AFL's All-Arena First Team in 1996 and 1997 as he led the Barnstormers to ArenaBowl appearances in both seasons. He then left the Barnstormers to sign with the NFL's St. Louis Rams and was allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe.

Warner was the backup quarterback for the Rams during the preseason of the 1999-2000 season. When the starting quarterback, Trent Green, was injured in the preseason, Warner took over as the starter. The accurate-throwing Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt were part of the high-scoring offense nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf." Warner's magical season, in which he tossed a staggering 41 touchdown passes, is regarded as one of the top seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Warner became the symbol of the Rams' giant turn-around in 1999. The offense registered the first in a string of 3 consecutive 500 point seasons, an NFL record. In the NFL Playoffs, Warner led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory against the Tennessee Titans. He threw for a record 414 passing yards that game including a 73 yard touchdown strike to Bruce when the game was tied with just over 2 minutes to play. He was Super Bowl MVP in 1999, becoming one of the select few to win both the League MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same year. The others are Bart Starr in 1966, Terry Bradshaw in 1978, Joe Montana in 1989, Emmitt Smith in 1993, Steve Young in 1994.

Warner started off 2000 red hot with 300 passing yards or more in each of his first 6 games and posting 19 touchdown passes in that stretch, tying Steve Young for the consecutive game record. Mike Martz would replace the retired Dick Vermeil as Rams' head coach. Their relationship would start off warm like that between Warner and Vermeil and would remain that way for the next few years. Warner broke his hand and missed the middle of the 2000 campaign, but Trent Green was able to step in and the Warner/Green duo led the Rams to the highest team passing yard total in NFL history, with 5,232 net yards. Warner and Green's combined gross passing yard total was 5,492, which if held by only one, would easily surpass 5,084 yards, the single-season record set by Dan Marino. For the first time in his short career, though, Warner showed a disturbing tendency to lock onto receivers and force turnovers; his TD-INT ratio was a pedestrian 21-18 that season. Still, an injured Warner was one of the most formidable passers in the NFL. Due to a very poor defensive unit, though, the Rams were eliminated from the playoffs in the Wild Card round despite one of the most productive offensive years ever. Nine of the eleven defensive starters would be cut during the offseason.

Warner returned to form in the 2001 season, however. Though his season lagged behind his fantastic 1999, Warner still turned heads with his Joe Montana-esque blend of accuracy and timing, amassing 36 TD passes and 4,800 passing yards, second only to Dan Marino. The Warner-led "Greatest Show on Turf" to a 14-2 record and returned the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2002, losing to the New England Patriots on a last second Adam Vinatieri field goal. For the second time, he was named the league's Most Valuable Player, but fans will always look at Super Bowl XXXVI as the moment when Warner's career took a huge turn. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, determined to slow down Rams coach Mike Martz's high-flying, Warner-led attack, blitzed early and often, confusing the normally in-control Warner by using the game as a venue for his chess match with head coach Martz. Warner turned skittish when the blocking broke down, and he was sacked several times. Still, Warner ran for a touchdown and threw a score to Ricky Proehl to tie the score before the Patriots kicked a last second field goal for the win. He finished the game with 365 passing yards, second only to his own performance two years earlier.

Going into 2002, pundits felt that Warner's Super Bowl XXXVI meltdown was an aberration, but observers noticed a distinct loss of velocity on Warner's throws in the 2002 preseason. Warner went 0-6 as a starter in the regular season, posting a horrific 3:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. On September 29, 2002, Warner broke his right pinkie finger, effectively ending his season. Having entered the year with a 103.4 career passer rating, Warner posted a miniscule 67.4 rating in 2002. Meanwhile, Warner's understudy, Marc Bulger, looked like the Warner of old: accurate, quick to read coverages, and deadly in the red zone. Naturally, controversy brewed in St. Louis after the season over which QB should lead the Rams in 2003. Martz stood by the erstwhile Warner throughout the fans' flap, and gave Warner the first start of 2003, against the New York Giants. It was a disaster. Warner fumbled six times, threw an interceptions, and it was learned that he played the game with a concussion. He would not see the field again until the final game of the season, while in between Bulger again put up inconsistent numbers (22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions). Despite an on-going controversy all year and a playoff loss with three interceptions by Bulger, Martz made it clear this time, there would be no controversy: Warner was clearly the odd man out.

After two injury-riddled seasons in 2002 and 2003, during which Bulger established himself as the Rams' starter, the Rams released Warner for salary cap reasons on June 1, 2004. Two days later, he signed a two-year deal to be the quarterback for the New York Giants. Ironically, it was largely Warner's performance against the Giants in the 2003 season opener, in which he lost much of his credibility by fumbling six times, one shy of an NFL record, that cost him his job with the Rams.

Warner started the 2004 season as the Giants' starting quarterback, winning five of the first seven games, but following a short losing streak, rookie Eli Manning was given the starting job and Warner was again relegated to the bench. After the 2004 season, Warner was still the NFL's all-time leader in passer rating and completion percentage. In early 2005, Warner signed to a one year, $4 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, and has been named the starter by coach Dennis Green.

(low whistle) What a guy! Even though his team did not pull off the victory tonight, I cannot help but be proud of him and his accomplishments. He is a class act and number one in my book.

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