I will always have a soft spot for Kurt Warner, because he basically resurrected my NFL fandom.
Backstory: I grew up in the 1980s in suburban D.C. as a die-hard Bears fan. When I got to Chicago for college, I developed a contact allergy to my Bears fandom -- and lost interest in the NFL, more generally.
Fast-forward to 1997: Back East after my first tour at ESPN.com (then in Seattle), I leveraged ESPN.com's relationship producing NFL.com to get a job at the NFL.
Without getting into any details, working at the NFL eroded any nominal lingering interest I had in the NFL.
I left the NFL in the spring of 1998 for SI.com -- and, yes, I was an editor of Peter King's MMQB *and* of Dr. Z, who once bawled me out something fierce. I still had no interest in the NFL.
Then, in the fall of 1999, something happened to rekindle my interest in the league -- if not a specific team: Kurt Warner.
The grocery bagger from Arena League who, by virtue of a freak accident to starter Trent Green, became the Rams' QB. And this QB from Nowhere absolutely lit up the league.
Warner led the Rams to one of the great turnarounds in NFL history: 4-12 in '98 to Super Bowl champs in '99. What a story.
And I was captivated. Not by the team, per se, but more viscerally by the unpredictability. The NFL was interesting for me again.
If this no-name QB could step in and start destroying the league, turning around a franchise in the process, anything could happen. I wanted to start following the league again.
I'm not sure my NFL fandom has ever been that piqued, but I remember it so vividly, always hoping that I might be that surprised and entertained again someday.
(As it turns out, I was unable to regain my die-hard Bears fan-ness -- to my regret -- and I ultimately tried to be a Jaguars fan, which has not really worked. Now, I'm reduced to something I've been foreshadowing for four years: That I'll probably root for whatever team drafts Tim Tebow. I should say that in recent years, I have become a die-hard fantasy football GM, and my fantasy team gives me enough satisfaction I don't feel the need to have a "real" team.)
So anyway: I have a soft spot for Warner.
I don't just think that he is a Hall of Famer. Between his backstory and his subsequent performance, I think he is the single most interesting player story in the history of the league.
And it all started 10 years ago, when this QB none of us had ever heard of destroyed the league and restored my NFL fandom.
BTW: This post was in part inspired by this great post about Warner by Leitch over at Deadspin. Leitch, to his credit, is a die-hard Cardinals fan, going back to the St. Louis days, following the franchise to Arizona, rather than re-orienting around the Rams.