CANTON, Ohio -- Twenty years ago, Kurt Warner was in Des Moines playing his final season for the Iowa Barnstormers, but last weekend he was in Canton, Ohio, becoming the first Iowa native inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Warner came to the Barnstormers after his first attempt at an NFL career failed. Eventually he'd make it back and lead his teams to three Super Bowls. Warner had to prove himself at every level of his career, starting at the University of Northern Iowa.
KWWL's Rick Coleman talked to come of Warner's college teammates who joined him in Canton this weekend.
Although there are some negative perceptions about Warner's time at UNI since he didn't play until his senior season, he acknowledges the school played a huge role in his journey to the Hall of Fame. His induction was a chance for life long friends to reunite and witness a man they remember as humble and driven enter this exclusive club.
"It was a special moment for all of us, and to see one of our teammates get inducted, it's almost too much for words," said Scott Derflinger.
"Back then, even now, he's the same guy. He's genuine, down to earth, and a guy you want to hang out with," said John Herrin.
Bret O'Donnell agreed, saying, "You see our teammates around here, we all spent time with together with him. A lot of hours during the film room, a lot of hard work that he did after he left UNI, and it's just awesome to see what his hard work has done and allows us to kind of look at our lives and see what we can do to work hard and achieve things."
Former Panther head coach Terry Allen made the trip to Canton for the ceremony. Allen says the narrative of Warner waiting four years to play will always be a part of the story. Both Allen and longtime UNI assistant Bill Salmon say Warner always had talent, but his development as a player accelerated following his departure from UNI.
"He wasn't a great player by any means when we first got him, but he developed into in his junior, senior year, he really played good. I think John Gregory down with the Barnstormers, when he got the chance to do that and got rid of the ball like he did, I mean he really grew and just kept growing," said Salmon.
"It's hard to unseat a quarterback that won every game, unfortunately. You look back at it and smile, and you're very proud of what he achieved. I think it correlates a lot to when he was at Northern Iowa. He persevered all that time and he knew he was a good player," said Allen.
Warner's former teammates have gone on to have families and successful careers. They brought their kids to the enshrinement ceremony to see their friend from UNI who overcame tremendous odds to become a pro football Hall of Fame member.
Warner is the first Iowa native in the NFL Hall of Fame. Three former Iowa Hawkeyes are in the Hall of Fame, but none of them were born or raised in Iowa.