7. Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner is a Super Bowl champion, two-time National Football League MVP and Hall a Fame candidate. His journey to success consisted of many setbacks and two remarkable comebacks. Throughout his incredible journey he has always given credit to his faith in Jesus Christ as the foundation for his success. After his college football career at the University of Northern Iowa, Warner went undrafted in the 1994 NFL draft. He was invited to try out for the Green Bay Packers, but was released before the start of the regular season.
With no other options he took a job working at a grocery store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa making $5.50 an hour. He also worked as a graduate assistant coach for the Northern Iowa football program while waiting for another NFL opportunity. No NFL team was willing to give him one, so he signed with the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers in 1995. During his two seasons in the AFL (1996 & 1997) he was named first team All-Arena and led his team to two Arena Bowl appearances. Finally, the St. Louis Rams signed him in 1998, but they allocated him to NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals where he led the league in touchdowns and passing yards. After that season he came back to the Rams as their third-string quarterback.
The 1999 season would change the course of Warner’s life and career. The Rams starting quarterback, Trent Green, tore his ACL in a preseason game and Warner became the starter. Up to this point in his career he had never been a starter in the NFL and had actually played very little. That year he would have one of the all time best single seasons by a quarterback, throwing for 4,353 yards with 41 TD passes and a completion rate of 65.1%. He led the Rams high powered offense known as the “greatest show on turf” to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans. In that game he threw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and was named the Super Bowl MVP. In addition he would become the seventh player to win both the league MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season.
He won a second league MVP in the 2001 season when he again led his team to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Patriots. In a close game decided by three points, he threw for the third highest passing total in Super Bowl history.
After winning two MVP’s in three seasons, Warner suffered another setback when he injured his throwing hand and did not complete the 2002 season. In 2003, he was replaced as the starter after fumbling six times in the season opening game. He was released the next season and signed a two year contract with the New York Giants. His setback continued as he was replaced in the middle of the season by the highly touted rookie Eli Manning. At the end of the season he decided to void the second year of his contract and become a free agent.
In 2005 he signed a one year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. He started most of that season and had a good enough year that he signed a three year extension the following year. The Cardinals then drafted quarterback Matt Leinart out of the University of Southern California and he replaced Warner in week four of the 2006 season. For the second time in his career Warner was replaced by a rookie quarterback even though he was a two time MVP and Super Bowl winner.
Leinart was named the starter again in 2007, but was ineffective and Warner regained the job later in the season. Despite his success, there was a quarterback controversy in the offseason. Eventually Warner was named the starter, where he led the Cardinals to a division title, their first playoff appearance since 1998 and the Super Bowl. They lost a very close Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he was still able to throw for 377 yards, making him the record holder for the top three passing yard totals in Super Bowl history.
Warner retired as a four-time All-Pro, having played in three Super Bowls and having thrown over 100 TD’s for two different teams. His outstanding play in the playoffs make him one of the best clutch players in NFL history and his off the field accomplishments culminated in his being named the 2008 NFL Man of the Year. Twice tossed aside as not good enough to start in the NFL, his comebacks are truly remarkable.
6. Lance Armstrong
The Lance Armstrong comeback story has been celebrated for good reason. His comeback has inspired millions of people. His “LiveStrong” campaign in partnership with Nike has motivated thousands of people to overcome cancer and other challenges. The LiveStrong Foundation has raised over 325 million dollars for cancer research.
At age sixteen he became a pro triathlete and by nineteen he had won two national sprint course triathlon championships. Then at twenty he became the United States Amateur Cycling Champion. One year later he won his first professional race as a member of Team Motorola. At age twenty-one he became the youngest cyclist to ever win the UCI Road World Championship and by twenty-five was one of the world’s best cyclists.
However, that same year he was diagnosed with Stage Three testicular cancer. The cancer spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. Armstrong took an active role in educating himself about cancer. Armed with knowledge, support, and confidence he undertook an aggressive treatment. After undergoing surgery where the diseased testicle was removed his doctor gave him less than a forty percent chance to live. Armstrong then had his brain tumors removed and amazingly, by 1998, his cancer had gone into complete remission. With his cancer in remission Armstrong began his comeback. His workouts were legendary for their difficulty and they launched him out of his setback.
Not only did he survive cancer, but his greatest accomplishments as an athlete have come since his recovery. Before being diagnosed with cancer he had only won three stages of the Tour de France and had never won the entire race. His comeback began with a fourth place finish in a race in Spain in 1998. In 1999 he entered the Tour de France and he miraculously won it just two years after cancer surgery. As impressive as that win would be it was just the first of seven straight races that he would win. No one in history had ever won seven straight Tour de France titles and at that point the comeback was complete. After his final 2005 Tour de France victory he announced his retirement.
5. Germany/Japan Post War
The aftermath of World War II left Japan and Germany devastated. Most of their large cities were severely damaged in addition to the countless lives lost. There were shortages of food and a lack of housing and transportation. In addition to all of this was the humiliation of defeat. The collective psyche of these nations was one of worldwide disdain for them as evil empires whose aggression had caused another world war. They had truly experienced a national setback. Both governments and economies were completely restructured by post war occupation from the Allied Forces. The ramifications of this left both in far worse shape than their pre-war conditions. Their comebacks are known as the post war economic miracle. Japan and Germany are now the third and fourth largest economies in the world.
By the end of the war Japan had lost two million lives and over 100 cities were destroyed. Industrial production stood at less than ten percent of its pre-war level. The United States occupied Japan from 1945-1952 during which they brought demilitarization and democratization, as well as industrial, land, and education reform.
The Korean War propelled Japan’s economy into recovery because they became the principal supplier of food and arms for the U.S. armed forces. During this period industry was rejuvenated and by 1955 industrial output was back to its pre-war level. They began rebranding themselves by abandoning militarism and focusing on becoming an industrial and technological nation. Much of modern technology (HD televisions, DVD players, audio equipment) has been invented or made in Japan.
According to the Japanese economist Ryuotaro Komiya, their overriding goals have been making the economy self-sufficient and catching up with the West. Japan’s postal savings institution has fostered a high savings rate, reducing the cost of capital and allowing debt to be financed internally. They have also developed a highly efficient workforce through their rigorous education system. Ultimately, from 1950-1980, Japan’s economy grew at a remarkable rate of ten percent annually.
By 1948 the German people had been living under price controls for twelve years and rationing for nine. Hitler had imposed price controls for his own economic gain; the result was severe food shortages and high inflation. The end of the war meant the end of these policies, thus unleashing industrial productivity. In just the first six months, industrial production had increased by fifty percent.
The split of Germany into the Communist East and the Democratic West in 1961 concentrated economic growth solely in the West, where it stalled from decreases in the labor force that accompanied the split. The reunification of Germany in 1990 brought about another comeback as there were now plentiful laborers for their various industries. At the core of Germany’s successful comeback is its highly efficient industrial sector. Germany’s economy now excels above all other European countries.
4. Buffalo Bills 1993 Playoff Game
The Buffalo Bills played the Houston Oilers in an NFL playoff game in 1993. In that game the Bills recovered from a 32-point deficit to win the game in OT. The Bills comeback was the greatest postseason comeback in NFL history. The Oilers had beaten the Bills 28-3 the week before which cost them a first round bye in the playoffs. In the first half of the game the Oilers continued their domination over the Bills. QB Warren Moon went 19-for-22 for 220 passing yards and 4 TD’s to put the Oilers up 28-3 at halftime. Just a 1:41 into the second half Bills QB Frank Reich threw an interception that was returned for a TD, putting the Oilers up 35-3. On top of their 32 point deficit, the Bills lost their star RB Thurman Thomas to a hip injury.
The Oilers kicked off and used a squib kick that was very poor and it gave the Bills excellent field position. The Bills drove the short field and scored their first TD. In what may have been the turning point of the game the Bills then tried an onside kick and were successful in recovering the ball. Just four plays later Reich hit Don Beebe with a 38-yard TD pass. The Bills then forced the Oilers to punt for the first time in the game, which resulted in just a 25 yard punt. The Bills scored again on a TD pass from Reich to Andre Reed and all of the sudden the score was 35-24. In ten minutes of the third quarter the Bills had scored 21 points and the Oilers had only run 3 plays for 3 yards. The Bills then intercepted Moon and scored on a fourth-down attempt with another TD pass to Reed. In the fourth quarter the Bills scored another TD on a pass to Reed and now the Bills were actually ahead of the Oilers 38-35.
Moon led the Oilers on a 63-yard drive which resulted in a field goal, tied the score, and sent the game into overtime. The Oilers won the coin toss and could have won the game without the Bills ever even getting the ball but Moon threw an interception. Reich led the Bills down the field where they kicked a 32 yard field goal to win the game. In just one half of football (and a little overtime) the Bills erased a 32 point setback and produced the greatest comeback professional football has ever seen and they did it in the playoffs.