CANTON, OHIO • Traditionally, most inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame throw private parties for friends and relatives on Saturday night after the induction ceremony. But apparently Kurt and Brenda Warner couldn't wait to get the weekend's festivities going.
The Warners threw a nice little party Thursday night at the posh Glenmoor Country Club here. Over the course of the evening, perhaps a couple hundred guests came and went. But it took Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill to help save the day for the Warner children.
The children were scheduled to fly in from Phoenix on Thursday — Kurt and Brenda had arrived Wednesday — but the kids' connecting flight was delayed in Chicago. Somehow, Bidwill found out about the travel delay. He dispatched his personal jet to pick up the Warner children in Chicago, and they arrived about an hour or so into the festivities at Glenmoor.
"We had calls and updates throughout the day as I was being run around from one event to the other, that flights are delayed, flights are canceled," Warner said. "We've got kids coming from a couple different places. And eventually found out about 7:30 (p.m.) that all flights are canceled out of Chicago.
"So I called up (Hall of Fame president) David Baker, and said, 'OK, I don't like to throw the name around, but I'm a Hall of Famer. Do you have anybody that could help a Hall of Famer out and send a jet or has a jet in that area that can get my kids down here?'
"Somehow he mentioned it to Michael Bidwill."
Bidwill in turn called Warner, and said he had just landed in Canton — where the Cardinals were playing Dallas on Thursday night in the Hall of Fame Game.
"He said, 'I'm turning my guys around to Chicago, they'll go grab 'em and bring 'em back,' " Warner said.
And that's what happened. With Team Warner reunited, Kurt and Brenda introduced each and every one of them to the gathering at Glenmoor.
"It was awesome," Warner said. "I told Mike, 'You've been my savior twice now. Bringing me to Arizona one time and getting my kids here a second time.' "
The gathering included former Rams coach Dick Vermeil and wife Carol, former general manager Charley Armey, and former Rams president Jay Zygmunt. Armey came with a heavy heart: he as in Iowa earlier this week for the funeral of his brother Larry.
Left tackle Orlando Pace and right tackle Jackie Slater were there sporting their Hall of Fame jackets. Another Rams Hall of Famer, running back Marshall Faulk, arrived fashionably late with his St. Louis agent, Rocky Arceneaux. Linebacker London Fletcher and tight end Ernie Conwell were among other Rams in the house.
And yes, Rams owner Stan Kroenke and executive vice president Kevin Demoff were there. Neither attended Pace's induction ceremony last year, the first year for the team back in Los Angeles after 21 seasons in St. Louis.
Kroenke and Demoff kept a relatively low profile, congregating in the back of the reception area.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also made an appearance.
Others in attendance: former St. Louis Rams assistant coaches Al Saunders, John Ramsdell, and Mike White; former Rams community relations director Marci Moran; Lucia Rodriguez, who now goes by Lucia Rosenbloom following a divorce; and Al Luginbill, who "discovered" Warner as coach of the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.
Saunders, currently wide receivers coach with Cleveland, put in a full day at Browns camp, cleaned up, and was one of the early arrivals for the party.
Moran, who headed up the Warner's First Things First Foundation for years, no longer works for Warner and has been touring the country — 30 states — with her family in an RV for 10 months.
Lucia Rosenbloom, the daughter of late Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, once was part owner of the team along with brother Chip Rosenbloom.
As might be expected, there was much reminiscing, many old stories retold among laughs and smiles, and "man-hugs" galore. A cover band played — loudly — in the front of the reception area.
On one side of the room was a big Cardinals logo, with finger food for the crowd. On the other side was a big Rams logo, serving liquor and more finger food. Thus both major career stops for Warner — Arizona and St. Louis — were represented. The crowd was heavily Rams in affiliation, at least in the first couple of hours, probably because the Cardinals were playing Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game to kick off the 2017 preseason Thursday night in downtown Canton.
Kurt and Brenda were gracious hosts, as expected, thanking everyone for attending. At one point, Brenda quieted the room, stood in front of the bandstand, and gave a heartfelt, impassionate speech to Kurt, standing a few feet away.
She spoke about his character, how he treated people from all walks of life with the same respect, how he overcame long odds to achieve his success, and how his story shows that everyday people should never give up on their dreams and goals. Fighting back tears on one occasion, she said her comments Thursday would be the real speech "presenting" Kurt.
Her official presentation speech during Saturday's induction ceremony was pre-recorded, and will be shown on the video board at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, site of the induction.
Once her remarks were finished Thursday, there was a kiss — no, make that two — from Kurt, who then spoke. His remarks were brief, largely thanking everyone in attendance for their role in his life, his football career, and his story.
He said he'd have plenty more to say during his induction speech Saturday night.