I have a soft spot for New York Giants quarterback Kurt Warner, a guy who refuses to allow career setbacks to harden him, who doesn't understand the meaning of no.
Tossed onto the scrap heap by the Rams after leading them to a Super Bowl title, winning two MVP awards and one Super Bowl MVP honor, Warner now tosses touchdown passes for the New York Giants.
Upon joining the Giants, Warner received no guarantees from coach Tom Coughlin, other than this backhanded compliment:
Kurt, we think you've still got it, whatever "it" is, but you must prove yourself all over again or we're going to start rookie Eli Manning at quarterback.
Hey, when you've stocked supermarket shelves for a living and wondered if that would be your life's work - as Warner did before receiving his big break with the Rams - you learn to not take things personally.
Warner started in two Super Bowls and played in multiple Pro Bowls. Other players in a similar position might have been insulted and walked away in a huff if Coughlin had refused to hand over the starting job.
Warner, however, saw the Giants as an opportunity to restore his good name.
He so thoroughly outplayed Manning in the preseason that there's been no more talk of when Manning will replace Warner. Only if Warner can guide the Giants to the playoffs.
Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be a kick in the teeth to all of Warner's critics who questioned his durability, his decision-making, his toughness and his ability to take care of the football? Wouldn't that make for the comeback story of the year in the NFL?
Warner leads the resurgent Giants against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. His story is a lesson in patience and perseverance.
"I think the bottom line is, there's a lot of guys that have been told they're too old, too slow, they can't do it anymore that can still do it," said Warner, who joined the Rams following stints in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.
"I don't know anybody who has been consistently great year in and year out, and I think in this day and age it's a different mentality, that if you have a down year, all of a sudden everybody starts saying you're washed up."
In his first five games wearing a Giants uniform, a "washed-up" Warner has completed 95 of 147 passes for 1,125 yards, three touchdows and one interception while going 4-1.
Watching Warner go about his business this season is a study in quarterback excellence.
He's been just as effective in the Giants' ball-control offense as he was directing the Rams' wide-open attack.
At 33, Warner isn't too old. Instead, he's too much. He's everything the Rams said he wasn't when they cut him loose.
The Rams questioned everything about him - from him totaling only seven starts in 2002 and 2003 because of injuries, to turning the ball over with alarming frequency, to not delivering the football with his normal velocity and accuracy, to his wife, Brenda, criticizing coach Mike Martz on radio call-in shows.
Last season, Martz pitted Warner against Marc Bulger - and Warner lost. Bye, bye, Kurt.
The great thing about Warner is that he acted the same way on his climb to stardom as he did on his decline to disappointment. He never forgot where he came from, a trait that has served him well in his rebirth in the Meadowlands.
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