I want to share a story with you of a man who discovered grace, not only from God but also from man. It has been stated that grace is “ getting the absolute best when deserving the absolute worst.” The word for grace in the Greek meant unmerited favor. So you football pros can play a guessing game of “Who is it?” as I tell the story of a football legend.
He was born in Burlington, Iowa. His parents divorced when he was six. He and his brother lived with his mom for awhile as she suffered through a second failed marriage. Shortly after that, him and his brother went to live with his father in Cedar Rapids. It was there that he played football for Cedar Rapids.
After graduation he attended the University of Northern Iowa. At UNI, he was third on the Panthers' depth chart until his senior year. When he was finally given the chance to start, he was named the Gateway Conference's Offensive Player of the Year.
Following his college career, he entered the NFL draft and went undrafted. He was invited to try out for the Green Bay Packers' training camp, but was released before the regular season began; he was competing for a spot against Brett Favre, Mark Brunell and former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.
It was at this time that he turned to stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls for $5.50 an hour. It was also at this time that he became a Christian.
With the love for football still in his heart he returned to Northern Iowa and worked as a graduate assistant coach with the football team, all the while still hoping to get another tryout with an NFL team.
But there were no NFL teams willing to give him a chance, so he turned to the Arena Football League , and signed with the Iowa Barnstormers. He was named to the AFL's First-team All-Arena after he led the Barnstormers to Arena Bowl appearances in both of his first two seasons. His performance was so impressive that he would be named twelfth out of the 20 Best Arena Football Players of all time.
Before his third Arena season started, he requested and got a tryout with the Chicago Bears, but an injury to his throwing elbow caused by a spider bite sustained during his honeymoon prevented him from attending.
A year later his dreams came true when he was finally signed by an NFL franchise, the St. Louis Rams. He was allocated to NFL Europe's Amsterdam Admirals, where he would lead the league in touchdowns and passing yards. His backup at the time was another unknown quarterback named Jake Delhomme, who become another famous rags-to-riches quarterback story. Returning to the United States for the next season, he spent it as St. Louis' third-string quarterback behind Tony Banks and Steve Bono.
After releasing Banks and Bono, the Rams signed free agent Trent Green to be their starting QB, and he was promoted to second string. When Green tore his ACL in a preseason game, Rams coach Dick Vermeil named him as the Rams' starter.
With the support of running back Marshall Faulk and wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim, and Ricky Proehl, he put together one of the top seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdown passes and a completion rate of 65.1%. The Rams' high-powered offense, run by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, was nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf" and registered the first in a string of three consecutive 500-point seasons, an NFL record.