Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, and was introduced at the NFL Honors show in Houston.
HOUSTON — Kurt Warner, who seriously contemplated retirement in 2006 after rookie Matt Leinart took his starting quarterback job with the Cardinals before rallying to take the franchise to their only Super Bowl, is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“It might not define me,” Warner said after his election Saturday, following an announcement at the NFL Honors awards show, “but it adds to the definition, and I kind of like it.”
Warner was voted in Saturday afternoon in his third year of eligibility, and is the second Arizona Cardinal to go to the Hall of Fame. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was inducted in 2013.
Along with Warner, the rest of the class included running back LaDainian Tomlinson, running back Terrell
Davis, kicker Morten Andersen, defensive end Jason Taylor, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Seahawks safety Kenny Easley.
“I just know the things he’s done for me professionally and personally,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “To have his name called and have a bust in Canton, hopefully coach (Bruce) Arians will let me have a practice off in training camp to go watch it.”
In his 12 NFL seasons, Warner threw for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns, numbers that don’t rank among the tops in NFL history but are stellar given that he started at least 10 games in only seven seasons and started more than 11 games in only four seasons.
He led his teams to three total Super Bowls, splitting his two appearances with the Rams.
His career had a rebirth in the desert, after he left the Rams and spent a single season with the New York Giants, during which he was a mentor for rookie Eli Manning. He signed with the Cardinals in 2005.
“I was most proud of the fact I was able to impact two different organizations,” Warner said. “A lot of people look at this journey and say, ‘I don’t know, he played for two organizations, with a lull in between.’ But I’ll tell you what, the thing I wanted to define my career more than anything else was the fact I got a chance and was able to help two organizations to change their stripes.”
That, Warner said, was more important to him than the Hall of Fame.
“The way my journey played out, starting my first game at 28, having some bumps along the way in a couple of organizations, I don’t know if I ever really felt I did enough (to make the Hall),” Warner said. “When I was between the lines, I felt like I played this game as well as anybody. Is that enough to get there? I have no idea.”
Plenty who played with Warner felt strongly about it.
“If it was up to me, he’d already be in the Hall of Fame,” former Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “He wouldn’t have had to wait this long. The numbers speak for themselves, but what he put into the game, his dedication, his hard work. … He was a leader, an extension of the coaching staff.”
In his five years, Warner played in 61 games for the Cards with 57 starts. He completed 65.1 percent of his passes, threw for 15,853 yards (fourth in team history and more than he threw for while playing in St. Louis for the Rams) with 100 touchdown passes and 59 interceptions.
Warner holds the franchise record for completion percentage (65.1), as well as 300-yard games (22) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (22). Warner’s 2008 season featured team records in attempts (598), completions (401), completion percentage (67.1), passing rating (96.9) and touchdown passes (30).
“This is an extraordinary honor for an extraordinary person,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “Every day and in every possible way Kurt Warner has demonstrated the excellence for which the Hall of Fame stands and we are thrilled to see him take his rightful place among the game’s all-time greats.”
Carson Palmer has since surpassed Warner’s season records for passing rating (104.6) and touchdown passes (35) in 2015.
In six postseason games, Warner threw for 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He authored one of the greatest passing performances in NFL playoff history in his final appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium, with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four) in the Cardinals’ 51-45 wild card win over the Packers during the 2009 season. Warner was 29-for-33 for 379 yards in the game.
Warner said his wife surprised him by having his entire family flown into Houston in anticipation of his big day. It was a fairytale day for him, fitting when he was honored for a fairytale career.
“My journey is unlike anybody else,” Warner said.