ATLANTA (Jan. 31, 2000) Kurt Warner was greeted by the rare winter chill last week. He experienced those same conditions when he participated in NFL Europe League training camp two years ago in Atlanta.
"It was ironic when we came out last week and it was cold and the icy rain," Warner said.
So on Sunday, Warner took it upon himself to heat up the town.
Warner, making his prime-time NFL debut, passed for a record 414 yards and won MVP honors as the Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner erased Joe Montana's old Super Bowl record of 357 yards in Super Bowl XXXIII.
"I'll remember last night for the rest of my life," Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said as he introduced Warner during Monday's Super Bowl MVP news conference.
Warner put St. Louis ahead with 1:54 left to play when he hooked up with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown. He didn't see the play as it unfolded because Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse was bearing down on him. However, Warner did watch the replay from his hotel room several times.
"The great catch he made, then the run after the catch (was great)," Warner said.
Warner did most of his damage in the first half when he passed for 277 yards and drove St. Louis into the red zone on five straight trips. His performance was indicative of the type of passing clinic he put on throughout the year.
Warner beat out teammate Marshall Faulk for league MVP honors after passing for 4,353 yards, 41 touchdowns and leading the Rams to a 13-3 mark in the regular season. He only got a chance to start this year because Trent Green, signed last offseason by the Rams, suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason.
"I was going to continue to play football as long as I could," the signal-caller from Northern Iowa said. " I was getting to the point thinking how much longer am I going to have before people say he is too old to give him an opportunity."
Previously, Warner got his opportunities in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe but had no serious shot in the NFL after being cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994.
"From a quarterback standpoint, it's easier to fall through the cracks than any other position," Rams coach Dick Vermeil said, "because normally within a pro football franchise you already have a starting quarterback or you're about to draft a first-round pick This type of athlete entering the National Football League doesn't get what you call an equal opportunity."
Warner made the best of his.
Warner completes dream season as Super Bowl MVP
|Jan. 30, 2000
SportsLine wire reports
Kurt Warner's storybook season ended with the ultimate exclamation point Sunday -- a record-breaking Super Bowl MVP performance.
The quarterback who once tossed rolls of toilet paper around an Iowa supermarket, threw passes just as easily in the glare of pro football's most dramatic setting, picking apart Tennessee's secondary and leading the St. Louis Rams to the NFL championship, 23-16.
Warner completed 18 passes for 277 yards in the first half alone, with six straight completions in one drive, and set a Super Bowl halftime record for attempts with 35.
He constructed a 16-0 lead. Then, when Tennessee made a furious second-half comeback to tie the score, he won the game with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce.
That gave him a record 414 yards for the game, breaking Hall of Famer Joe Montana's record of 357.
Warner was following in the Super Bowl successes of high profile passers such as Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath.
The difference was that those guys were future Hall of Famers, expected to produce championships for their teams. Warner came out of football's shadows to bring this one to the Rams, who had struggled through nine straight losing seasons before finding him almost by accident.
This was a success story almost too corny to be true.
After playing at Northern Iowa -- hardly a hotbed of NFL talent -- Warner spent three seasons on the outskirts of pro football with the Iowa Barnstormers of the fringe Arena Football League, and one more in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals.
He was a backup with the Rams, an insurance policy that St. Louis cashed in when $16.5 million free agent Trent Green was injured in training camp. And suddenly, the anonymous quarterback blossomed into a full-fledged NFL star.
Warner directed a high-powered St. Louis attack to a 13-3 season, setting a team record for passing yards with 4,353 and throwing 41 touchdown passes. He joined Dan Marino as the only player in NFL history to throw 40 or more TDs in a season.
He was the regular season MVP, a most unlikely candidate for the award, given his humble football roots. A year ago, he said, even he wouldn't have dreamed of this.
"At the time, it wasn't very realistic to think I'd be the starter in the Super Bowl," Warner said. "They were trying to figure out if I was good enough to be the backup.
"I always believed in myself. There were no doubts that if I ever got the opportunity, that I could be successful. I continued to believe that through the times I worked in the supermarket and the times I played in Arena Football. I never lost sight of that. To me, that's what it's all about -- believing in yourself, waiting for that opportunity and then seizing it when it came.
"I was just hoping I would get an opportunity throughout the season to play and to show people what I could do."
|Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner has come a long way from his days as a supermarket worker.(AP)
And that turned out to be plenty.
His performance bordered on startling. He led the league with a quarterback rating of 109.2 and gave every longshot football player the hope that someday he could duplicate this kind of unexpected success.
For Warner, it was no surprise.
"I just went out and did what I expected myself to do from day one, things I've been doing for the last few years," he said. "It just happens that some people who hadn't seen me do it, got to see me do it this year."
And on Sunday he did it in pro football's top showcase.
The Associated Press News Service