Kurt Warner had one of the biggest storybook rises from obscurity to stardom in American professional sports history, vaulting from an unknown quarterback to NFL regular season and Super Bowl MVP for the St. Louis Rams in a fabled career that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now Warner gets together with another St. Louisan who has excelled in his profession, Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck, for an in-depth television conversation that is to air a 7 p.m. Tuesday on Audience Network. It is the latest installment of the “Undeniable with Joe Buck” long-form interview program, which is available to subscribers of DirecTV (Channel 239) and AT&T U-Verse (channel 114, 1114, 599 or 1599) as well as on the DirecTV and U-Verse apps.
Warner was the talk of sports in 1999 when he came off the bench to lead the Rams to the Super Bowl title after the preseason odds of them winning were as high as 250-1. That sparked a short glory era in the rocky history of pro football in St. Louis. His run with the club ended after the 2003 season, among injury and turmoil with the team, before he resurrected his career with the Arizona Cardinals after a brief stint with the Giants.
Buck asks him about the unceremonious end in St. Louis.
“It didn’t end well, I think we were as surprised as anybody,” Warner says.
Buck asks him if he felt betrayed.
“I think there were parts of it where you try to fight that instinct,” Warner says. “There were parts of it that were very disappointing, that things that were so good could become so bad so quickly.”
Warner clashed with coach Mike Martz, and Warner’s wife stuck up for her husband in multiple radio interviews.
“The most disappointing part to me was the perception of me as an individual — and probably more importantly, my wife — in the media,” Warner tells Buck. “Stuff that was unwarranted. Because the one thing we had always hung our hats on through this whole thing was character, and standing for something, and being certain kinds of people. During that period, that was taken for a little bit of a ride.”
Buck sympathizes with Warner about Brenda being on the firing line and indicates that Warner, who had been benched in favor of Marc Bulger, could have stated his case in a more direct manner.
“There’s part of you that wants to do that and let everybody know and scream from a mountaintop,” Warner says. “And then there’s the other side, the side that we chose, is saying ‘Were going to stand on our character and we’re going to let that carry us through and we’re going to believe that at the end of the day that’s going to win out. That’s because the next chapter was having to prove to people that there were other factors that were involved there outside of just the fact Kurt can’t play football anymore.”
In a talk at a church after his final season with the Rams, Warner had implied that he’d been persecuted by unspecified coaches on the team for his strong religious beliefs.
But he remains a beloved figure in St. Louis as he and his wife, Brenda, continue to have charitable endeavors in the area. In fact, the baseball Cardinals honored him at a game in May in which he threw out the first pitch and some fans received a Warner bobblehead doll.
“We’ve got a special place in our heart (for the area),” he told Fox Sports Midwest’s Dan McLaughlin that night. “All the programs that we do through our foundation are bigger and better now than they even were when we were in the midst of this community. It’s hard to speak to what these people have meant to us and what they continue to mean to us. And that to me is why I loved my time here so much, because the people were just incredible.”
Buck’s show also has its lighter sides, especially when Warner discusses a call he got from the Chicago Bears offering to have him work out for them when he was trying to get his career going.
“I had been waiting three years for an NFL tryout,” Warner says, adding that he immediately asked, “When and where? I’m in!
“I ran and told my wife, ‘Next Friday I’m going to Chicago for a tryout with the Bears.’ She kind of just looked at me funny and I (asked her), ‘Why are you not excited for me?’ And she goes, ‘Well, ’cause we’re getting married on Saturday, you’re not going to Chicago the day before our wedding. OK? We’ve got plans.’
“When the Bears called, I forgot all about it!”
Warner said he called the Bears to reschedule the workout for the following weekend, but Brenda reminded him that they would be on their honeymoon then, in Jamaica. So he had to call and ask for another new date, which was set for soon after the honeymoon. But he said that on the day before they returned from Jamaica he was bitten on his throwing elbow by a centipede or a scorpion. That caused a lot of swelling, sweating and a fever. So made his third call to the Bears asking to reschedule.
“Hey I got bit on my throwing elbow by a centipede,” he says he told them. “Really, I did!’
Buck says, ‘They think you’re insane.”
“Needless to say, the Bears never called back,” Warner says.