The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Before Kurt Warner caught on with the Rams, sparking a storied pro career that included two league MVP awards and a Super Bowl title, it was all nearly derailed by a spider. We all know the story of Warner bagging groceries and stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee in Cedar Falls, Iowa (pictured above), before catching his big break. But did you know an arachnid’s bite interrupted plans for an NFL tryout a year earlier?
After two seasons with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers, Warner earned a shot with the Chicago Bears but couldn’t attend the tryout after suffering a spider bite on his honeymoon. The Bears went another way, and the Rams came calling a year later. (Efforts to locate the spider were unsuccessful, so we went with the grocery store).
Warner is far from the only NFL great with a bizarre how-I-made-it story: Colts legend Johnny Unitas famously hitchhiked back to Pittsburgh from Steelers training camp, opting to save the bus fare the Steelers forked over after cutting him. He played semi-pro ball for $6 a game before getting his shot with Baltimore. The humble Warner can certainly relate.
— Robert Klemko