Kurt Warner’s life has played out like a movie script, from his humble beginnings to his soaring NFL success. Now, it’s possible the Cedar Rapids native could see his life on the big screen.
In a conference call with reporters, Warner said Tuesday he’s had discussions about turning his life story into a movie and he believes it will happen someday.
“There’s no question when you see some of the sports movies that have been out there and some of the real life stories that have been out there, I think my story can challenge any of those,” Warner said. “I think it would make a tremendous movie on the big screen from a lot of different perspectives.
“I’ve actually had a number of talks of making the story into a movie, and we believe at some point it’s going to get done, and I think it’s one that can truly impact and inspire people.”
But before someone else grows out the stubble and tries to throw for more than 400 yards in a Super Bowl — of which only Warner has done — Warner’s new employer sheds some perspective on the hardscrabble former quarterback. At 9 p.m. Thursday, NFL Network will air a one-hour documentary “Kurt Warner: A Football Life,” the third in a series of profiles on NFL personalities. Warner’s show chronicles his story from no-name also-ran to two-time league MVP.
Warner, 40, retired after the 2009 season and now works as an analyst on NFL Network’s “NFL Gameday” show. Warner finished his career with 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. He ranks second all-time in completion percentage (65.5) and has the three top passing yardage performances in Super Bowl history. His 1,156 passing yards also top the Super Bowl charts.
While the show augments his accomplishments, it also provides clarity to some of Warner’s career disappointments. He and others, including Brett Favre and Steve Mariucci, discuss in detail Warner’s 1994 training camp stint in Green Bay. In that camp, Warner competed against Favre, future Pro Bowler Mark Brunell and former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer and was released five weeks later. While some consider his initial release a potential valley to his career, Warner said the experience provided the opposite effect.
“When I went in, I hadn’t really played much,” Warner said. “I played one year in college (at Northern Iowa). Obviously the names that were there, it was an intimidating situation. So I wanted to believe that I could play at the NFL level, but it was really yet to be seen.
“As I went in there and I competed against Brett and against Mark and against Ty, I left going, ‘Hey, I can do the things that these guys can do. I can make the throws, I can see the field. I can play at this level.’ So even though I was cut — it was obviously disappointing — but I left going, ‘All right, all I need is the right opportunity. All I need is the right chance because I’ve got what it takes to play at this level.’”
Warner later played three seasons with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers, spent a summer with NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals and landed in St. Louis as a backup in 1998. In 1999, Warner replaced free-agent signing Trent Green, who suffered a vicious knee injury in the preseason. Warner then had a magnificent run with the Rams, throwing for 12,612 yards and 98 touchdowns over a three-year period. Twice he led St. Louis to the Super Bowl, winning one. He also earned NFL MVP honors in 1999 and 2001.
But Warner’s career slipped in 2002. He was injured and inconsistent. By 2004, he was released and found a home in New York. Warner led the Giants to a 4-1 start, one season after the team finished 4-12. He started nine games (5-4) and threw for 2,054 yards. But Coach Tom Coughlin pulled Warner in favor of top pick Eli Manning, and the Giants finished 6-10.
Warner spent only one year in New York, and the experience didn’t settle with him or former Giants running back Tiki Barber. Warner was forced to conform to Coughlin’s conservative style of offense, which was contrary to his pass-first preference. He also said people have a false impression that his New York experience was a failure.
“We accomplished more in the first seven games than they had accomplished the whole year before, so a lot of people look at it and say, that wasn’t a successful year for you,” Warner said. “I think it was a huge success for me because it showed that I could still lead, and I could still help my team win and I could do it in a different way than I had ever done it before. When I was benched in New York, we actually would have been a playoff team the moment I was benched.
“I take great pride in the fact of coming into a situation and doing what the team needed me to do to help us win. It wasn’t the way I wanted to play. I think it was difficult for me because I didn’t believe I was giving the proper chances to have success and have success throwing it. But ultimately that was my job, to lead and to make the plays they asked me to make to help us win and we did that.”
“The unfortunate thing for Kurt with us is that he could have been really good if we had changed our system,” Barber said.
One year later Warner headed to Arizona. He had mixed results in 2005 and was replaced in 2006 by rookie Matt Leinart. The quarterbacks split time in 2007, and Warner earned the starting nod in 2008. He threw for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns while taking the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl.
The show features interviews with his wife, Brenda, and several of Warner’s former teammates and coaches. Warner said he’s seen a rough cut of the documentary and said the story is told “from a different perspective.”
“I always said football was a part of my life but at the end of the day, I wanted my legacy to be bigger than the game of football,” Warner said. “I wanted it to be more based on character more than it was on play. I think that’s really the essence of this story and to me what makes it special is that they captured what I wanted to accomplish, and I believe who I was as a person as much as they did as the player.”
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