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NFL MVP Quarterback Kurt Warner has taken the ‘Hail Mary’ to the next level

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This post is sponsored by American Underdog, the inspirational true story of legendary NFL quarterback Kurt Warner,  in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day. 

Kurt Warner’s journey to the NFL Hall of Fame was an unlikely one for anyone who followed his career closely. Today, we know Warner as the NFL’s greatest undrafted player, but it was a life of faith and service that kept him in the game. 

The idea of throwing a long pass with no time left in the football game and praying that someone (on your team) catches it in the end zone is almost as old as football. It wasn’t until 1975, however, that we began calling the play itself a “Hail Mary” pass after Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Navy veteran Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson for a game-winning touchdown, later telling reporters, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

After playing football at Northern Iowa, Warner went undrafted in the 1994 season, but was picked up by the Green Bay Packers. Even so, he was released before the season began. For a guy who loved to throw the ball, one might say his entire career has been a Hail Mary play. 

He spent three years playing arena football while working at a Hy-Vee grocery store for $5.50 an hour. During this time, he turned to Christianity for guidance and fulfillment and, with his restored faith, became one of the greatest arena football players of all time and took the Iowa Barnstormers to the championship for the next two years. 

Warner at the 2009 Pro Bowl. (Wikipedia)

His breakout ability in arena football led to a tryout with the Chicago Bears, but an untimely injury to his throwing arm wrecked that chance. Still full of faith, he accepted a place on the NFL’s European team, the Amsterdam Admirals. There, he led the European league in touchdowns and passing yards.

Finally, he was brought back to the U.S., playing third-string quarterback with the then-St. Louis Rams. During the 1999 season, he found himself as the backup quarterback to Trent Green. His faith, stronger than ever and bolstered by his recent success, proved itself.

In a 1999 preseason game, Green was hit with a season-ending injury, making Warner the Rams’ starting QB. Warner was 28 years old by then, an age where most NFL quarterbacks are considered nearly past their prime. His offense that season earned the nickname “The Greatest Show On Turf.” Warner’s lifelong Hail Mary play, fueled by faith, had finally paid off.

Warner led the Rams to a stellar record that season, winning the team’s first division title since 1985 and taking St. Louis to Super Bowl XXIV against the Tennessee Titans, a game they would win 23-16 – which included a 73-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Warner to Isaac Bruce with two minutes left in the game. 

Kurt Warner, the undrafted quarterback from Northern Iowa, who was passed over as a leader in the NFL time and again, kept his faith. He was named Super Bowl MVP for the game and the NFL’s MVP for the 1999 season. He played for the Rams until 2003, where he led the team to another Super Bowl appearance in 2002 against the New England Patriots, the first Super Bowl after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The game was an upset, as the Patriots’ second-year QB Tom Brady led his team down the field with 1:30 on the game clock and no timeouts to clinch the game with a field goal. 

After a stint with the New York Giants, Warner was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in 2005, where it looked like his career was on the wane. Warner’s performance was mixed for the first two seasons and he was named backup in favor of the Cardinals’ new QB, Matt Leinart. But problems with Leinart’s health and performance led the Cardinals to call on Warner once more. 

Warner took the team to a division title in 2007 and a Super Bowl appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, which the Cardinals ultimately lost. In 2009, complications from a concussion affected his performance, but he was still able to take the team to the playoffs, where he set the record for the highest-scoring game in NFL history and became one of a handful of quarterbacks to throw more touchdowns than incomplete passes in a postseason game. 

In 2010, at age 38, Kurt Warner retired from the NFL, capping an unlikely miraculous career that no one would have believed while he was stocking shelves at his local grocery store. No one, that is, except for Kurt Warner, who closed his eyes and prayed – that’s the power of faith.  
If you love Kurt Warner’s story, then check out the trailer below for a sneak peek at American Underdog!

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This post  is sponsored by American Underdog, the inspirational true story of legendary NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day.