Quarterback Kurt Warner Plays Not My Job

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Quarterback Kurt Warner, pictured in a St. Louis Rams uniform in January 2002. i

Quarterback Kurt Warner, pictured above in January 2002, played for the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants before his retirement in 2010. Jeff Hayes/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Hayes/AFP/Getty Images
Quarterback Kurt Warner, pictured in a St. Louis Rams uniform in January 2002.

Quarterback Kurt Warner, pictured above in January 2002, played for the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants before his retirement in 2010.

Jeff Hayes/AFP/Getty Images

Kurt Warner's professional sports career didn't start out on the best foot — after going undrafted out of college, he played in various leagues and served as a backup for the St. Louis Rams. But when he finally got his chance in 1999, Warner led the Rams to a legendary Superbowl championship. This year marks the tenth anniversary of that happy year in St. Louis, Mo.

St. Louis is a city known for beer, so we've invited Warner to play a game called "That tastes like carbonated death." Three questions about soft drinks ... the drink to have when you're out of beer.


And now the game where we invite on people who have done amazing things in order to do something completely unimportant. For years, Kurt Warner had the kind of career in professional sports that makes parents warn their kids away from professional sports. He went undrafted out of college and then after a few years playing in various leagues and as a backup for the St. Louis Rams, he gets his chance to play - and led his to the Super Bowl in one of the most legendary seasons for a quarterback ever.

Next week, Kurt Warner is coming back to St. Louis to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that miraculous year. He joins us now by phone. Kurt Warner, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!


M: Hello, everybody. How are you doing?

SAGAL: So the story of your career is amazing, not so much for how it ended but for how it began. And I'd like to go over that just for a second. It's really like a Hollywood movie. Let me see if I got it right. You were a homeless, 7- foot-tall, young black man living on the streets of Memphis...



SAGAL: ...when you were adopted by Sandra Bullock. Is that about right?


M: You know, it's pretty close. Pretty close. You might be off on a few, small details, but pretty close.

SAGAL: So you went undrafted out of college. And as everybody knows, at one point you find yourself living in your - was it your parent's basement or your in-law's basement, and you were stamping cans at a grocery store.

M: That's exactly right. Trying to find myself a job, working nights at a grocery store, hoping that somehow, some way, I could fulfill my dream.

SAGAL: Eventually you got a job in arena football. You played arena football for a while. And then you were finally picked up - I think it was first the Packers and then the Rams. And you were with the Rams and what'd they do, they sent you to Europe to play football there.

M: Exactly. You know, when I finally got a chance to sign a contract in the NFL, the first stop was in Amsterdam. So I had to spend a few months in Amsterdam trying to earn my stripes so I could get an opportunity to play in the NFL.

SAGAL: Was it weird playing American football in the Netherlands? I mean, how can you possibly run wearing those wooden shoes, for example?


M: Well, you know, I'm not really fast anyways, so...

SAGAL: Yeah, well...

M: ...so it just brought everybody else down to my level ,that they had to run in wooden shoes.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: You know, it was funny because there was people over there ringing cowbells and blowing whistles when we were on offense. And they really didn't understand the game, but it was a lot of fun trying to introduce them to American football.

SAGAL: OK, you go through all of that, all those years of disappointment and waiting and being a backup and finally, your day comes. They put the ball in your hand, you're the starting quarterback. Do you think you needed to go through all of that difficulty and doubt to be able to take charge the way you did when you were finally given the ball?

M: Yeah, I definitely don't think I would have done as well. And first of all, from a football standpoint, I really hadn't played much. I sat on the bench for four years in college. So it was really my proving ground...

SAGAL: All right, that's crazy.


M: (Unintelligible).

M: It's really weird.

SAGAL: You didn't start in college. You couldn't get a job out of college. You were playing football in wooden shoes for guys who wouldn't let you pick up the ball.


SAGAL: When you finally got the job, how did you know which direction to throw it?


M: They yelled at me enough that I would be able to figure it out at some point.

SAGAL: I guess so. Wow.

M: Can I ask a question? What are you really bad at, no matter...

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: Tell me something you really can't do that - no matter how you try, you can't do it.

M: Oh, man.

M: Are you a bad golfer?

M: Do you want me to go hand the phone to my wife?



SAGAL: Is she there?

M: She's definitely around here somewhere, but I'm not sure I want to do that...

SAGAL: I understand.


SAGAL: I understand. That's a dangerous thing to do. You were named - and we love this - you were voted the best role model in the league by the other players, which is both a wonderful honor to you but also a little strange. Because our understanding, to the extent that we have one of the NFL, is it's a pretty tough culture. It can be brutal. These guys are going after each other. It's competitive. We know that trash talking is a big part of the game. You're a very religious man. You carry yourself in a certain way. Can you give us an example of how - did you do any like, very family-friendly trash talk?


SAGAL: You're like, goodness, I don't think you're going to do very well on the next play, sir.


M: You know, I wasn't real good at that, as you can imagine.


M: So, it really didn't have much intimidating effect when I tried to trash talk, so I kind of left that to my teammates. And, you know, I'd just walk back to the huddle and let them take care of that for me.


SAGAL: There's a lot of curiosity about the huddle. When we had Joey Harrington, another quarterback, on the show, we asked him that in the huddle, you know, what are you actually talking about there. And he said, oh mainly, we'd just be like, oh wow, look at that girl over by the 50-yard line, she's cute.


SAGAL: Can you share any secrets from the huddle with us now?

M: Well, I wasn't looking at the girl on the 50-yard line, but I was looking at the blonde-haired lady that was in the front row.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: And was pointing out how hot she was to all my teammates. But you know...

SAGAL: That was your wife, right?

M: That was definitely...

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: I knew you were thinking that, but I wanted to get it said, you know, to save you trouble.

M: Yeah, exactly.


SAGAL: As I said, you're a family man. You have seven kids. What kind of sports dad are you?

M: I'm very competitive with my kids. It doesn't matter what we're doing. My wife often, you know, gives me that look when we're playing video games or playing a card game because I definitely don't like to lose. And even if it's to my two, 4-year-old twins, that...

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.


M: Well they're plotting behind your back, you know that.

M: Right. They are. They're trying, but I'm doing the exact same thing on the other side of the table. So...

SAGAL: All right, I'm going to give you a choice. You're retired, so I will ask you, would you rather be home with your seven kids, or would you rather be on the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line trying to kill you?


M: Um, it depends on what's going on at home.



SAGAL: I understand, context related.


SAGAL: Well, Kurt Warner, we're just delighted to be able to talk to you here in the city where you did so many great things. But we have also invited you here to play a game we're calling...


"That Tastes Like Carbonated Death."


SAGAL: St. Louis, in addition to sports excellence, is known, of course, for beer. So we thought we'd ask you about soft drinks, the one drink to have when you don't have any beer.


SAGAL: Get two questions right, you'll win our prize for one our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. You ready to play?

M: You bet.

SAGAL: All right, Carl, who is Kurt Warner playing for?

KASELL: Kurt is playing for Liz Green of St. Louis.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: Ready to play? Here's your first question. Some soft drinks make carbonated beverages - treats from rather surprising raw material. The Abali Company makes a soda from what? A, bacon; B, yogurt; C, antacid?

M: Oh, yum.


M: I do know that bacon makes everything taste better.

SAGAL: It does.

M: But I'm going to throw out the answer yogurt.

SAGAL: You're right. Yogurt. Very good.



SAGAL: Next time you're thirsty, Abali Yogurt Soda comes in either original or mint, so you can enjoy that. The next question: Sometimes, foreign countries make sodas with English names. We think maybe their English is not that good. Exhibit A, the Japanese soda called either A, sweat ion water; B, happy happy blood drink...


SAGAL: ...or C, sheep saliva wonder.


M: Oh, man.

M: Kurt, those were three plays you had with the Rams, right?


M: I'm going to go with the sheep saliva wonder.

SAGAL: The sheep saliva wonder - a little picture of a dancing sheep on the bottle. No, actually, it was sweat ion water.

M: Oh, man.

SAGAL: We think it was some kind of sports drink. All right, this is very exciting. As seems to be your habit, it's come down to the final play.


SAGAL: The man likes the drama.

M: At least this one's in my hands.

SAGAL: There you are. Here, without question, is the most unlikely soda we could find. Which of these flavors really at one point was drinkable in a carbonated form? A, toothpaste and orange juice; B, postage stamp glue...


SAGAL: C, tofurky.


SAGAL: Tofurky is fake turkey made from tofu. Tofurky-flavored soda.

M: Oh, my goodness, man. Toothpaste and orange juice just do not mix. So that cannot be it.

SAGAL: Some people may like it. All right, no, no, scratch that one off. Good idea. Go on.

M: Man, I'm going to...

SAGAL: Would it help if I send some large men to try to knock you down? You do well under that kind of pressure.


M: I do.

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: With a bunch of people screaming at me or something but...

SAGAL: Yeah. Yeah.

M: I'm going to go with the, I guess, tofreaky.

SAGAL: Tofurkey.

M: No, no, no.

SAGAL: No, Tofurkey is correct.

M: Oh, it is?

SAGAL: It is.


M: Is this a special Thanksgiving...

SAGAL: It is. It's a special...

M: ...Thanksgiving...

SAGAL: The Jones Soda Company of New York makes a Thanksgiving flavor pack every year. And one year instead of the traditional turkey, they had tofurkey and gravy flavor.

M: Oh, yum.

SAGAL: That was great. You snuck that over the goal line yourself. Carl, how did Kurt Warner do on our show?

KASELL: Kurt had two correct answers, Peter, so he wins our prize for Liz Green. Congratulations, Kurt.


M: Congratulations, Liz.

SAGAL: You can take the man out of football, but you can't keep him from winning. The last question, I got to ask, is this for real, or are you going to pull a Brett Favre on us all?

M: You can't imagine how many times I've been asked if I'm going to pull a Favre...

SAGAL: Yeah.

M: ...in the last few months. But this is definitely final, definitely with the mindset that I won't step on the football field anymore, at least in the NFL. And you know, we're going to go around and try some new challenges and do some new things.

M: He's going to go play football in Luxemburg next.

SAGAL: Yeah, we knew it. He's going to go back to Amsterdam and triumph.


SAGAL: Kurt Warner is a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl champion as quarterback with the St. Louis Rams. On Thursday, he will be hosting "Night with Champions," celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Rams' Super Bowl win right here in St. Louis, Missouri. Kurt Warner, thank you so much for joining us today.


M: All right, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

SAGAL: Thank you, sir.

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