On Aug. 5, Kurt Warner will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, just down the road from Cleveland — home of the woebegone Browns.
On Feb. 9, 1999, the Browns had a chance to take Warner in the expansion draft when the franchise rebooted after a three-year hiatus. (Owner Art Modell had taken the team to Baltimore, where they were reincarnated as the Ravens following the ’95 season.)
Warner was there for the taking, one of the players exposed by the St. Louis Rams on the expansion list.
“When you look at that expansion draft ... you don’t see Kurt Warner’s name at that stage and go, ‘Gosh, we’ve gotta have that guy,’” Warner said Thursday via conference call. “Nobody wanted me a year before that. Nobody knew anything else really about me at that time. It really just was what it was. I was realistic about the situation.”
As an obscure rookie for St. Louis, signed as a street free agent, he had thrown just 11 passes during the 1998 season for a 4-12 Rams team. Obviously, the Rams didn’t think Warner would get selected by the Browns.
And they certainly didn’t think he’d be the NFL’s regular-season and Super Bowl MVP a year later as quarterback of the Greatest Show on Turf.
Who knows how Warner’s career would have gone had the Browns selected him? Of the 37 players selected by Cleveland in the expansion draft, the only QB taken was Scott Milanovich of Tampa Bay, who never threw a pass for the Browns. On April 17, they made Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch the No. 1 pick in the draft. That didn’t work out so well, either.
“It would’ve been fun to win a Super Bowl in Cleveland,” Warner said. “I always felt like wherever I was I’d be successful.”
Warner always was a confident type. Always believed in himself. He didn’t see himself as the guy who sat on the bench for all but one season in college, got cut in training camp by the Green Bay Packers and then worked in a grocery store.
He saw himself as the guy who was conference player of the year his only season as a college starter, was voted best QB in the Arena League three years running, and then had the best year statistically of any QB in NFL Europe in the spring of 1998.
“Had I gone to Cleveland I would have expected nothing else but to have success,” Warner said. “Somehow, some way, some form, had I been on the field I would have expected to play well and have success. So we joke, yeah, I would’ve loved to have won a Super Bowl in Cleveland or gone to a Super Bowl in Cleveland.”
Alas, the Browns remain without a Super Bowl victory and are one of four teams that have never appeared in the Super Bowl (along with Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville).
When it comes to the Rams’ expansion list that year, almost forgotten is the fact that it also included offensive guard Tom Nutten. The Browns didn’t take him, either. Nutten became a starter in 1999 and blossomed into a top-flight pass blocker.
The Rams probably don’t go to the Super Bowl that year had Nutten not neutralized future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, the Tampa Bay defensive tackle, in the NFC title game. If you ever run into legendary line coach Jim Hanifan, just ask him.
STRIKE THE POSE
What does wide receiver Danny Amendola have in common with Kim Basinger, Christie Brinkley, Paris Hilton, Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields, and Twiggy?
He works for Ford Models. That’s right. Amendola, the wide receiver known for his effort and toughness, was recently signed to the client list of the prestigious New York-based modeling agency.
“I’m a football player first and foremost, but fashion is something that I’m also interested in exploring right now,” Amendola told GQ Magazine. “I’m really grateful to Ford for giving me that opportunity.”
Amendola spent the first four seasons of his eight-year career with the St. Louis Rams. He has since won two Super Bowls with New England. But his best year statistically remains 2010 with the Rams, when he caught 85 passes for 689 yards with rookie Sam Bradford at quarterback.
Give his athletic prowess, Amendola doesn’t figure to have any Zoolander-type problems on the runway. You know, making left turns.
MIZZOU UP NORTH
Most NFL camps don’t open for about two weeks, but the 2017 Canadian Football League season has been going for several weeks.
Quarterback James Franklin, a three-year starter at Missouri, is in his third season with the Edmonton Eskimos, where he’s primarily a backup but has played well when given the chance.
Running back Kendial Lawrence, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Tigers in 2012, also plays for the Eskimos and is in his fifth season in the CFL.
Wide receiver L’Damian Washington, who led Mizzou in receiving yards (893) in 2013, has four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in three games for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In 2014 and ’15, Washington had either camp stints or practice squad time with no less than seven NFL teams before deciding to head north to the CFL in 2016.
What has become an annual fall event, the Gridiron Gala fundraiser for the Isaac Bruce Foundation, is set for Thursday, Sept. 21 at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Ricky Proehl, Mike Jones, Leonard Little and Roland Williams are among the scheduled guests.
A Flag Football Challenge designed for corporate teams is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22 at the former Rams Park in Earth City. For information on either event, visit www.isaacbruce.org.