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c -1------------------------------------------------------------------------- [ l •_ _ _ _ _ _ _. LAST YEAR'S KURT WHO? IS THIS YEAR'S KING KURT IN ST. LOUIS, BUT KURT WARNER IS ONE t REIGNING ATHLETE WHO IS NOT ABOUT TO LET THE CROWN GO TO HIS HEAD BY MIKE SANDROLINI ASSISTED BY MIKE OSTROM PHOTOS BY TOM DIPACE T New look, same results. Sporting a shiny new color combination, the Rams set out to prove that they were the same old Super Bowl champs. In the first five games of the 2000 season, Kurt Warner led the ~ams to a 43-points-per-game sconng average. • In one magical season that reads like an Oscar-winning movie script, Kurt Warner went from NFL quarterback wannabe- just 2 years ago he was a thi rd-stringer who played in one game- to league and Super Bowl MVP. "He's a book, he's a movie, this guy," said St. Louis Rams former head coach Dick Vermeil after Warner led the Rams to their dramatic 23- 16 victory in Super Bowl XXXIV by throwing for a record 414 yards. Well, the book's already out. It's Warner's autobiography, accurately titled All Things Possible. The movie? There's nothing in the works-yet- but if you take Rudy, Rocky, and Field of Dreams, and roll them all into one, you' ll get the idea what Kurt Warner: The Movie would be about. Warner insisted after his record-shauering Super Bowl performance th at "I don ' t th ink of it as a Hollywood story. It's just my life." But what a life it's been for Warner this past year! Endorsements. A new multi -million dollar contract. Magazine covers. TV appearances. People wanting his time- for autographs, interviews, speeches, you name it. Li vi ng under America's microscope has "definitely been a di fferent life, although there have been a lot of strange and funny thi ngs," says Warner. "Times I' ll go to the grocery store and just be shopping .. ." he begins, contemplating his very public life, when an example comes to mind. "One lady saw me and waited for me outside the grocery store. She asked if I could give an autograph and I said, 'Sure.' "She kind of looked through her purse, but she couldn't come up with anythi ng for me to sign. So she asked if I would follow her home and sign all the stuff she had in her house." Ah, yes. Grocery stores. Kurt Warner knows his way around supermarket aisles about as well as he knows how to maneuver through opposing defensive formations. After gelling a preseason pink slip from the Green Bay Packers in 1994- Brett Favre was already the man in Titletown-Warner returned to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he had success quarterbacking Division 1-AA Northern Iowa University. That's when he had his now very famous but then very anonymous job working nights at a local grocery store stockin g shelves for $5.50 an hour. Taking that shift freed him up during the day to work out and work the phone, hoping an NFL club would give him a tryout. But the NFL, as well as the Canadian Football League, indicated that Warner should not quit his night job. So Warner ended up playing three seasons for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. Some fans might thin k t:ight-un-eight football inside the closed quarters of arenas tailored for basketball and hockey doesn' t compare to the real thing. But it was that quicker-than-NFL action that helped Warner hone the skills that would eventually lead to last yea r's remarkable 4,353-yard, 41-touchdown campaign with the Rams. As a Barnstormer from 1995 through 1997, Warner threw for more than 10,000 yards and 183 TDs. Football wasn't the only area of Warner's life that was beginning to fall into place during that span. Warner says he started to become more grounded in his Christi an faith back then-a fa ith he admits he "never really knew" much about before-by allending a Bible study with some Barnstormer teammates. His gi rlfriend, Brenda, whom Warner first met while country line-dancing in Cedar Falls, helped him grow spirituall y too. "She had been born again for a long SPORTS SPECTRUM - NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2000 2 3

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