QB contrast- Firey Favre vs. cool Kurt

Sunday, January 20, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- This matchup is hard to beat: The zest of Favre versus the calm of Kurt. The NFL's best quarterback for much of the 1990s against the No. 1 passer of today.

So why weren't these guys sure shots from the very beginning of their professional careers?

In Favre's case, many pro football scouts loved his skills and toughness when he was coming out of Southern Mississippi. But they were concerned with his attitude and health -- Favre was a party animal who had been through a horrendous car wreck in 1990, resulting in surgery to remove 30 inches of his intestine.

A month later, though, Favre led the Golden Eagles to an upset of Alabama.

Still, he was a first-rounder on the field who carried an end zone full of baggage off it. Favre dropped to the second round in 1991, taken by Atlanta, then was traded to Green Bay a year later.

Scheduled to back up Don Majkowski in '92, Favre wound up starting when Majkowski got hurt. He has been the Packers' quarterback ever since, and once he learned how to pass, not just throw, he became a star.

And once he licked a dependence on the painkiller Vicodin, Favre became a champion, leading the Packers to victory in the 1997 Super Bowl and another appearance in the title game the following year.

Warner was one of the players on hand in 1994, just when Favre was becoming Green Bay's leader.

"All I remember about Brett is that he was a down-home, fun-loving guy," says Warner, who was cut in training camp. "He enjoyed what he was doing and made it fun for everyone around him.

"He was just on the upswing of his career and I could tell at that time that he would be one of the best QBs in the league. He had all the talent, but he also had all the intangibles, which, of course, everyone knows now."

Which, of course, also is what everyone knows now about Warner, who helped the Rams win the 2000 Super Bowl and earlier this month won his second NFL Most Valuable Player award in three years. Favre is the only player with three MVPs (1995, '96, '97).

While Favre played for a middling college program, Warner attended Division I-AA Northern Iowa. Although Warner was the league's top offensive player in 1994, it was in the Gateway Conference.

Ignored in the draft, he tried to catch on with the Packers. But he had almost no chance with Ty Detmer and Mark Brunell already around to backup Favre.

That led to impressive stints in Arena Football and NFL Europe, but nothing more than a few NFL nibbles.

In '98, he caught on as a third-stringer in St. Louis. Heading into 1999, he was the backup to Trent Green, whom the Rams signed to a huge deal as a free agent.

Green wrecked his knee in the preseason and Dick Vermeil, then the Rams' coach, gambled on Warner. Vermeil's faith has been rewarded in ways no one in the NFL could have imagined.

Except, perhaps, Warner and Favre.

"I've played with so many people and against so many people, nothing surprises me in this league," Favre says. "No, I wouldn't say that Kurt has come out of nowhere, although it might seem that way.

"There's so many guys that could be great players in this league that are not even in this league, they're just forgotten. It's all about an opportunity. And a lot of people are like, 'Who is this guy? Where did he come from?'

"And Kurt got here in training camp for a reason. A lot of people don't even get that chance, and when he finally got the opportunity, he made the most of it. He's played extraordinarily well and so has their team. Regardless of how he got there, he's there and he's on top and he's playing great."

Today, the one who plays greater could determine which team goes to the NFL title game. Will it be that guy Favre used to call "Pop Warner." Or that guy "Brett Fav-ruh" who made that cameo in "There's Something About Mary?"

One thing is certain: Favre and Warner are capable of carrying their teams to another Super Bowl crown.

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