Originally created 04/21/00

Warner exhibits merits of league



By now, you've probably heard the Kurt Warner story, the tale of how this Arena League quarterback who goes on to play in the NFL, wins the Most Valuable Player award and then leads his St. Louis team to victory in the Super Bowl.

Yeah, that story.

"Kurt Warner, right away you're talking about a guy who brings credibility to the Arena League," Augusta Stallions coach Mike Neu said. "This league's been in existence 14 years, and obviously it's been a success. This brings more attention that there are great football players in this league who just haven't had an opportunity yet. Hopefully, what's he's done is laid the groundwork for some other guys."

Warner, who also was named MVP of the Super Bowl, played in the Arena League from 1995-97. He played all three seasons for the Iowa Barnstormers and went on to lose Arena Bowls X and XI. He then went to St. Louis before finding success in NFL Europe. Then he returned to St. Louis, and the rest is history.

"I was in a lot of big games in the Arena League, and as offense is, you have to score almost every time that you get the ball," Warner said in an interview with nfl.com in October. "So you build that mentality that nobody can stop you; that you go out and play football and you have to make a play every time you are out there."

The Arena Football League was originated in 1987. In its 13th year, the league now has 17 teams spread throughout the nation, with three expansion teams entering the league in the next couple of years.

In 1998, all-time attendance climbed to more than 1 million fans for the league with an average of more than 10,000 fans per game. In Arena Bowl IX in 1995, more than 25,000 fans attended the game while a 1993 contest between Orlando and Tampa Bay holds the record for most fans with 28,746.

Arenafootball2 got a big boost to its inaugural season when 14,831 fans watched the visiting Tennessee Valley Vipers pound the host Birmingham Steeldogs 59-18 in the league-opening game.

"It put the league off to a good start," Augusta Stallions general manager Scott Skadan said. "To feel the excitement and energy going through that crowd ... it makes us want to fill our barn."

While the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center will hold 6,200 for Arena football, the Stallions had sold more than 1,400 season tickets through April 1.

It will be hard for the Stallions to match one of the most amazing moments in Arena League history, which occurred on June 19, 1992. With Detroit leading Orlando by seven and threatening to score again, Orlando wide receiverdefensive back Barry Wagner intercepted a pass in the end zone. On the ensuing drive, Wagner caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Bennett. The Predators added a two-point conversion to go up 42-41 with 46 seconds remaining.

Detroit struck back by scoring a touchdown 13 seconds later to take a 47-42 lead. Then the two teams exchanged fumbles and Bennett was later sacked in the end zone for a safety.

Orlando then recovered an onside kick. Bennett hit a streaking Wagner for a 37-yard touchdown pass that brought the Predators within one. Bennett then connected with Wagner on a two-point conversion as Orlando went on to win 50-49.

In total, the teams combined for three touchdowns, three turnovers, a pair of two-point conversions, one safety, seven different possessions and a successfully recovered onside kick in the final 46 seconds.