Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will again open its exclusive gates and enshrine the seven-member class of 2017. Pro Football Weekly is highlighting them all, beginning with former Rams, Giants and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner.
Credentials: Two-time NFL MVP (1999 and 2001). Four-time Pro Bowler (1999-2001, 2008), two-time first-team All-Pro (1999, 2001). Three Super Bowl appearances, including Super Bowl XXXIV winner and MVP. Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2008. 12-year NFL veteran completed 2,666-of-4,070 career attempts (65.5 completion percentage) for 32,344 yards (7.9 YPA), 208 touchdowns against 128 interceptions, good for a 93.7 rating (10th all-time). Postseason numbers: 9-4 mark (including 7-0 at home). 307-of-462 (65.5 completion percentage) for 3,952 yards (8.6 YPA), 31:14 TD-to-INT ratio and 102.8 rating.
From bags to riches: Undrafted in 1994, Warner received a camp invitation from the Packers. His next job, after camp arm behind Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and Ty Detmer? Stocking shelves and bagging groceries at an Iowa supermarket for $5.50 an hour until an opportunity arose with the Arena Football League's Iowa Barnstormers in '95. Warner lit up the AFL, tallying 183 touchdowns, two Arena Bowl appearances and, eventually, a spot in the Barnstormer and AFL Hall of Fame.
Warner's AFL success attracted the Rams, who signed him in 1997. After one year in Europe and another as St. Louis' No. 3, a preseason injury to starter Trent Green thrust the reins of a 4-12 team ranked 24th in scoring and 27th in total offense on the still-anonymous Warner. Seemingly overnight, "The Greatest Show on Turf" was born, overseen by Mike Martz and orchestrated by a precise and persistent former journeyman, Warner.
The distributor to fellow Hall of Famer, RB Marshall Faulk, and perennial Pro Bowl WRs Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Warner guided the high-flying Rams to their first playoff berth in a decade. It culminated in his first MVP award after a league-leading 41 TDs, 109.2 rating and 8.7-yard attempt average spearheaded Martz's revolutionary, pass-happy, points-in-bunches attack.
Warner led the Rams past Tennessee to their first-ever Super Bowl triumph, clinched by his 73-yard scoring strike to Bruce with less than two minutes. Warner was named Super Bowl XXXIV MVP for tallying then-Super Bowl records for yards (414) and attempts (45).
Warner's Rams made three more playoff appearances, secured two additional division titles and another Super Bowl appearance, a last-second loss in XXXVI to Tom Brady's Patriots
His second act, beginning with the Cardinals in 2005 at age 34, didn't include another rapid rise, like with the Rams. He actually saw Arizona draft his supposed heir, Matt Leinart, 10th overall in 2006, but Warner again persevered.
With Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and coach Ken Whisenhunt, Warner led the Cardinals to a 9-7 mark, division title and his third and final Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season. It appeared another long touchdown late, 63 yards to Larry Fitzgerald to erase a two-score, fourth-quarter lead by Pittsburgh, would result in Warner's second Lombardi and Super Bowl MVP. Instead, Ben Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes in the right corner of the end zone punctuated one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played.
Quotable: "Maybe he wasn't even aware of the talent that he had," said former Rams coach Dick Vermeil. "I think of a guy with a lot of faith and belief in himself. Not cocky, but confident. Not in awe of his opportunity, and played his very first league game as if he played for five years in a row as a starter. He just had tremendous poise. Tremendous poise. He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. No one ever did what he's done, and no one will ever do it again. Ever."