Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner talks about his journey to the Hall of Fame.
Kent Somers/ azcentral sports
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Former Cardinals defensive back Aeneas Williams talks about former Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kent Somers/ azcentral sports
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Kurt Warner’s family was stuck at a Chicago airport Thursday night until Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill ordered his private plane to Chicago to retrieve them.
Kent Somers/ azcentral sports
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Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald talks with azcentral sports reporter Paola Boivin about working with Kurt Warner and building up his football career.
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Third time is the charm for former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, as he and four others were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 4, 2017. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Kurt Warner on HOF journey
Aeneas Williams on Kurt Warner, Hall of Famer
Kurt Warner on his family’s trip to Canton
Larry Fitzgerald talks about working with Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner inducted to Pro Football Hall of Fame
Editor’s note: As Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night, we took a look back at some of his memorable games with the Arizona Cardinals.
This story is after the Cardinals Jan. 18, 2009 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Warner threw for 267 yards and four touchdowns.
Why did the Cardinals close the roof Sunday? To keep out all the airborne swine. Duh.
Man walks on moon. Arizona storms into Super Bowl. In the realm of improbable events, the Cardinals’ 32-25 victory over Philadelphia in the NFC title game ranks up there.
The postgame scene was unbelievable. Defensive end Travis LaBoy’s mom, Angela Curley, was lying on the ground making snow angels, sans the frozen precipitation. The speakers blared Queen’s We Are the Champions. A woman waved a sign that said, “We are who nobody thought we were,” and safety Adrian Wilson, the team’s longest-tenured player, nodded his head at the fans who shared this journey with him.
“If I could capture this moment in my mind and just remember it for the rest of my life … ” Wilson said.
The victory wasn’t about big plays, it was about the stories behind those plays. It wasn’t defined by luck or bounces but by the two-a-days, the locker-room camaraderie and the staff’s coaching chops.
With 9:28 remaining in the first quarter, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald connected on a 9-yard scoring pass, the first points of the game.
On the awards podium after the victory, Fitzgerald sought out offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
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“Thank you,” he said, “for keeping your foot on my throat for two years.”
The comment hit Haley in the gut.
“It’s why you coach, to see players succeed after they trust you and believe in you,” he said.
With three Pro Bowl selections to his credit, it’s clear that Fitzgerald has talent. The staff thought he could give more. Fitzgerald thought he could give more. He took it to heart when friend and former NFL standout Cris Carter told him great players step up in big games.
He improved his work ethic and is one of the stars of this NFL postseason.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Warner pitched to J.J. Arrington, who threw a lateral back to Warner, who hit Fitzgerald for a 62-yard scoring play.
Arrington has played a sporadic role. Earlier this season, he spent four weeks on the inactive list as the team used Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. Arrington waited patiently until the Cardinals discovered he had improved as an inside runner and was a weapon on screen passes.
The Cardinals have had that flea flicker in their playbook since last year and brought it out again in practice this week because of the Eagles’ propensity to blitz. They trusted Arrington to execute, and he was happy to oblige.
“That’s the thing about this staff,” he said. “They let you know where you stand. They were never misleading. I knew my chance would come.”
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On first and goal at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter, Warner opted to throw to Fitzgerald and extended the Cardinals’ lead to 21-6.
Warner, 37, has heard it all. He’s washed up. He holds onto the ball too long. Ignoring the skeptics, he reinvented himself. He worked out aggressively in the off-season. He respected Haley’s wish to work on drills that involved ball security.
He lost little physically and improved mentally. He had complete and utter confidence that the pass from the 1-yard line was the right call.
When he woke up this morning, he quickly slipped into his no-nonsense mode.
“He was crabby,” his wife Brenda said after the game. “He was in his zone, but he was crabby.”
The Eagles had a chance to shift momentum in the opening drive of the second half, but Wilson sacked Donovan McNabb on third and 8, forcing a fumble that Bertrand Berry recovered at the Philadelphia 43.
Wilson has been on this team for eight years, longer than any other player. Though others couldn’t wait to leave and trash the team on the way out, Wilson stuck around and spoke of how he would like to help the Bidwills win a championship.
He was classy to the end Sunday, making sure the first thing he said when he stepped up to the podium after the game was praise for the Philadelphia players.
It was his leadership that served this team well both on and off the field. If there’s anyone who represents the die-hard Cardinals fans, it’s Wilson.
And Richard Hayden. The Tempe resident, 72, is one of the few who were there in 1947 when this organization played the Eagles in the NFL title game at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
He was there Sunday, too.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “I can’t believe what I just saw.”
Neither can a lot of fans. But it’s real.
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