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Professional football player Kurt Warner drove a high-powered St. Louis Rams offense to a Super Bowl victory, and collected MVP honors along the way.
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Professional football player. Born June 22, 1971, in Burlington, Iowa. Kurt Warner's football career has proven to be of the more improbable rags-to-riches stories ever to come out of the sports world. Bypassed by the big Division I colleges, and at one point working the graveyard shift stocking shelves at a supermarket so he could stay in football shape during the day, Warner, a 28-year-old no-name back-up, catapulted to stardom in 1999. During his second full year in the NFL, he drove a high-powered St. Louis Rams offense to a Super Bowl victory, and collected MVP honors along the way.
Over the ensuing decade, Warner captained two other teams to the Super Bowl, registered another MVP season, threw for more than 200 career touchdowns, and started talk about a possible Hall of Fame induction.
Kurt Warner was raised primarily in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the youngest of two sons born to Gene and Sue Warner, who divorced when Kurt was just four. Warner and his older brother, Matt, lived with his mother, who patched things together with a string of low-level jobs, sometimes holding three of them at a time. Warner struggled to forge a relationship with his mother's new husband, whose five-year marriage with Kurt's mom was far from harmonious.
Where Warner found solace was in sports. While attending Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, he excelled in basketball, baseball, and football. After earning the starting quarterback position his junior year, his high school coach, recognizing Warner's on-the-field intelligence, allowed his QB to sometimes call his own plays.
By Warner's senior season in 1988 he'd played himself to state honors, earning a trip to Iowa's Shrine Bowl, a game that features the state's top players. There, he led his squad to victory and took home the MVP.
Disappointed by the lack of interest from any bigger college football programs, Warner ended up at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, a Division I-AA school that wasn't exactly famous for churning out NFL talent. Initially excited about staying closer to home, Warner's enthusiasm for the college—where he majored in communications—and its football program, waned. After redshirting his freshman year, the quarterback was relegated to the bench for the next three seasons. He thought about quitting, and only stayed on after his parents convinced him.
Finally, in the fall of 1993, Warner took hold of the starting position, leading the Panthers to an 8-3 record, a playoff birth, and conference honors as the Offensive Player of the Year.
Besides earning some long deserved football cred, Warner's time at Northern Iowa was shaped by the meeting of Brenda Meonio, a 25-year-old single mother of two young children, including a son Zach who had suffered a brain injury when he was an infant.
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