November 22, 2014

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Kurt Warner could teach Browns’ Anderson about rising from obscurity

BEREA – Derek Anderson, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, has seemingly come out of nowhere to be mentioned as a candidate for the Pro Bowl.
He`s got nothing on Kurt Warner in the out-of-nowhere department. If it weren`t for the girl who lost a glass slipper, Warner would be the original Cinderella story.
For those who can`t remember back to 1999, when Warner`s life story was plastered across the magazine aisle, he rose from Arena League obscurity and stocking shelves in a grocery story to NFL MVP and Super Bowl champ.
“Just reflecting back to my time, it was just a whirlwind early on that I really didn`t understand,” Warner, now Arizona`s quarterback, said on a conference call. “I tried to focus on football as long as I could before it became crazy. It was a once-in-a-lifetime deal, where you`ve always dreamed of having the opportunity of being on that stage and playing great football.”
Warner was undrafted out of Northern Iowa in 1994, signed by Green Bay and cut. He played three years in the Arena League before being signed by St. Louis. He spent a year on the bench, then was thrust into the spotlight when Trent Green was hurt in the 1999 preseason.
“I was a backup and he was a backup,” said Browns guard Ryan Tucker, who played with Warner from 1998-2001. “All of a sudden he became a star and is MVP of the league and then he`s a stud. He deserved it. He handled it well.”
When Tucker was asked for his favorite Warner story, he said there weren`t any.
“The dude was as good and clean as it gets,” Tucker said. “The guy didn`t cuss. He`s a real family guy. He didn`t screw up or mess around.
“He can be a hero for a lot of people. The guy is a stand-up man. It was cool to be in his life for that short time.”
Warner was such an unknown commodity that he was left unprotected by the Rams when the Browns held their expansion draft in 1999. The Browns passed – “I didn`t think they`d waste a pick on me,” he said – Green got hurt and Warner became one of the NFL`s all-time best stories. He was MVP in 1999 and 2001 and his 4,830 yards in 2001 are the second-most in league history.
Did Tucker see that coming when they shared time on the bench?
“Hell no. Who did? I don`t think he knew,” he said. “I remember the press conference Dick (Vermeil, coach) gave when we lost Trent. He was basically in tears.”
Things worked out for Warner, and eight years after his meteoric rise he`s still flinging the ball. He took over for an injured Matt Leinart in Week 6 and ranks seventh in the league with a 90.8 rating. He`s thrown for 2,009 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“The guy is awesome,” Browns safety Brodney Pool said. “I grew up watching him. It will be good to meet him.”
“He`s a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback,” cornerback Daven Holly said. “You can`t forget about that. He can make all the throws.”
Warner threw for a career-high 484 yards Sunday in an overtime loss to San Francisco. It was the highest total in the NFL this year.
“I know everybody is talking about his age, but there`s a guy in Green Bay (Brett Favre) with a little age and he`s doing pretty good,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He threw for almost 500 yards last week – I hope it wore his arm down to tell you the truth, but I`m not counting on it.”
Warner, 36, said he`s followed Anderson from afar and sees similarities with his breakout season.
“He has played tremendous football,” Warner said. “I`m excited for him and excited for the opportunity that he has gotten and the way he has taken advantage of it.”
Any advice for the kid from Scappoose, Ore?
“Enjoy every minute of it,” Warner said. “It`s one of those things that not many guys get to experience. It doesn`t last very long in the big scope of things.”
Anderson said Warner serves as inspiration for the out-of-nowhere population.
“For guys who`ve never given up,” he said. “He`s a guy who went through a lot to get where he is. From what I hear, he`s a great guy. I`ll probably introduce myself before the game.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.