Dan Marino's eyes followed Kurt Warner through the aisle of a grocery store and it was enough to motivate the latter to pursue his professional American football dreams.
Warner explained during his Hall of Fame induction speech at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on Saturday that he saw the Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback on a box of Wheaties while stocking shelves in Iowa.
A 3 a.m. conversation with that box of Wheaties "set the wheels of change in motion" for Warner to eventually join Marino as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Dan, I know you have no idea the role you played, but thanks for the motivation," he said to Marino, who was seated behind Warner as he delivered his induction speech as the last member of the seven-man 2017 Hall of Fame class to speak Saturday in Canton.
After going undrafted from Northern Iowa in 1994, Warner spent training camp with the Green Bay Packers but was released. He then bagged groceries before getting an opportunity to play for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. After three seasons with the Barnstormers, with two Arena Bowl berths, Warner went to NFL Europe in 1998 before getting another shot at the NFL with the St Louis Rams in 1999.
Becoming the Rams starter was a game of chance, landing the job only after incumbent QB Trent Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game. Warner ended up being the NFL MVP in 1999. He was also the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV. He was named league MVP again in 2001, when he led the Rams back to the Super Bowl, and later helped the Arizona Cardinals reach their only Super Bowl in 2008.
"I wasn't sure this moment was ever going to come," Warner said. "People say Hollywood couldn't have written it any better. After this, they don't have a chance."
"Those pinnacle accomplishments on the field were simply by-products of the moments that would lay the foundation of the man who stands here this evening."
He included the "Kill Kurt" drill in high school that helped him face his fears and stand tall in the pocket as a quarterback.
Warner thanked his dad for always saying, "Yes," whenever his son wanted to spend time with him. Warner said those yeses kept him going in the face of some many noes.
He sat on the bench at UNI for four years, asking fellow Hall of Famers on the stage to raise their hands if any of them sat on the bench for four years at any point in their lives. Nobody raised their hands. "Exactly," Warner said.
His mother talked him out of transferring from UNI and to be grateful for his opportunity. She told him to "never stop working or preparing because God had a plan."
He said his mother reminded him of those exact things, not just by what she said but by how she worked three jobs so her sons could play sports.
"She taught me that even when life doesn't give you what you want, you never stop believing," Warner said. "Mom, so much of who you see today was formed from what I saw in you. The spirit of perseverance that runs through my veins and which has defined my career were without question passed down by you."
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