ATLANTA (Jan. 31, 2000) – Kurt Warner was greeted by the rare winter chill last week. He experienced those same conditions when he participated in NFL Europe League training camp two years ago in Atlanta.
"It was ironic when we came out last week and it was cold and the icy rain," Warner said.
So on Sunday, Warner took it upon himself to heat up the town.
Warner, making his prime-time NFL debut, passed for a record 414 yards and won MVP honors as the Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner erased Joe Montana's old Super Bowl record of 357 yards in Super Bowl XXIII.
"I'll remember last night for the rest of my life," Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said as he introduced Warner during Monday's Super Bowl MVP news conference.
Warner put St. Louis ahead with 1:54 left to play when he hooked up with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown. He didn't see the play as it unfolded because Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse was bearing down on him. However, Warner did watch the replay from his hotel room several times.
"The great catch he made, then the run after the catch (was great)," Warner said.
Warner did most of his damage in the first half when he passed for 277 yards and drove St. Louis into the red zone on five straight trips. His performance was indicative of the type of passing clinic he put on throughout the year.
Warner beat out teammate Marshall Faulk for league MVP honors after passing for 4,353 yards, 41 touchdowns and leading the Rams to a 13-3 mark in the regular season. He only got a chance to start this year because Trent Green, signed last offseason by the Rams, suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason.
"I was going to continue to play football as long as I could," the signal-caller from Northern Iowa said. "… I was getting to the point thinking how much longer am I going to have before people say he is too old to give him an opportunity."
Previously, Warner got his opportunities in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe but had no serious shot in the NFL after being cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994.
"From a quarterback standpoint, it's easier to fall through the cracks than any other position," Rams coach Dick Vermeil said, "because normally within a pro football franchise you already have a starting quarterback or you're about to draft a first-round pick … This type of athlete entering the National Football League doesn't get what you call an equal opportunity."
Warner made the best of his.