All he needed was an opportunity.
Once an undrafted, no-name camp arm for the Green Bay Packers, Kurt Warner initially toiled away in both the Arena League and in Europe before returning to the NFL with the now-former St. Louis Rams.
And now as the official ceremony approaches for which Warner will be enshrined alongside football’s elite, the Northern Iowa product touched upon the value of those additional early career reps in his Hall of Fame conference call with members of the media Thursday.
“Had I made the team with the Packers, who knows what my career would have looked like,” Warner said. “Who knows when I would have ever stepped on the field for the first time, or ever had a chance to start? I got a chance to play a whole bunch of football, and probably more football than any backup quarterback in any league, anywhere. …
“I got to grow up as a football player. I got a chance to experience and see so many different scenarios on the football field that I would have never faced and never been able to use as preparation for when I finally did start at the NFL level. That part, just in and of itself, was so valuable to me.”
Along with the due recognition for his career, Warner’s upcoming Hall of Fame induction further cements his status as the poster boy for development leagues in football.
At a time when the issue is widely considered to be a primary concern for the future of the NFL, now over a decade since the official disbandment of NFL Europe, Warner remains a staunch supporter of getting young players a chance they may not otherwise have.
“I’m just such a big proponent of having other opportunities, especially for the quarterback position, to be able to develop,” Warner said. “Whether that be a feeder league from the NFL, whether that be another league that takes on the role of developing, the quarterback position is so difficult. …
“When you look at the jump from college to pro, when you look at the systems being run in college to allow players to play quicker, and then that jump that goes to the NFL, I think you’re just going to see it become more and more difficult for guys to be able to make that jump and be successful quickly without getting reps in between the lines. I think it would be extremely beneficial for the NFL to develop a league or to partner with another league as a means of allowing quarterbacks to build their skill set and get better prepared for when they get the opportunity to play at the NFL level.”
Warner enjoyed a swift rise to glory after earning a spot with the Rams, first stepping in as the starter in 1999 and leading what became known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” for three seasons. That incredible stretch included two Super Bowl appearances, one of which resulted in a championship and game MVP honors for the leader under center.
After the frustrating few years that followed, he’d again emerge as the leader of a high-powered offense in Arizona. The Cardinals made a pair of playoff appearances in Warner’s final two seasons, advancing to the big stage in the former before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in what stands as one of the great games in Super Bowl history.
Warner would finish his career with a 67-49 record across 116 regular-season starts, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns.
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