Rams QB Kurt Warner looks for an opening

St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner looks for an opening during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta on Jan. 30. (AP Photo) (Ed Reinke)

Kurt Warner laughs at the suggestion that this season of his is some kind of fairy tale, a farfetched script dreamed up by a writer with a vivid imagination.

"I don't think of it as a Hollywood story,'' he said after finishing it off Sunday with the ultimate exclamation point -- a record-breaking Super Bowl MVP performance. "It's my life. I take it one day at a time. I'm truly blessed. If it can be a source of hope to anybody, I'm happy to be a part of it.''

The quarterback who once tossed rolls of toilet paper around an Iowa supermarket turned the Super Bowl into his private playground in a 23-16 victory over the Titans.

He picked apart Tennessee's secondary, completing 24 of 45 passes for a record 414 yards, breaking Hall of Famer Joe Montana's mark of 357.

First, Warner constructed a 16-0 lead. Then, when Tennessee made a furious second-half comeback to tie the score with two minutes to play, he won the game with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce.

Stuff like this reads like fiction. Warner knows that. He just shrugs it off and delivers an important message for every outsider, every player who was ever told he wasn't good enough.

"Don't ever lose sight of the goal,'' he said. "Don't let anybody tell you you can't reach it. Keep it in you, and there's no reason you can't do it.''

Warner did not for a moment believe the Rams would not win this game, even in the face of the Titans' comeback.

"We've got two minutes,'' he said. "We've been up and down the field all day. There was no reason we couldn't move it for a field goal to win it. By no means were we doubting that we could win the game.''

But like a kid in a sandlot, Warner went for broke on first down instead of playing it conservatively.

Naturally, it worked.

"It was a go route,'' he said. "We called it earlier and Isaac beat his guy. We thought we could get a big one right off the bat. Maybe they weren't expecting it.''

Bruce broke loose and took Warner's pass into the end zone, giving the Rams the lead and pushing the quarterback into exclusive company — Super Bowl heroes such as Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath.

The difference was that those guys were future Hall of Famers, expected to produce championships for their teams. Warner came out of football's shadows to bring this one to the Rams, who had struggled through nine straight losing seasons before finding him almost by accident.

This was a success story almost too corny to be true.

After playing at Northern Iowa — hardly a hotbed of NFL talent — Warner spent three seasons on the outskirts of pro football with the Iowa Barnstormers of the fringe Arena Football League, and one more in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals.

He was a backup with the Rams, an insurance policy that St. Louis cashed in when $16.5 million free agent Trent Green was injured in training camp. And suddenly, the anonymous quarterback blossomed into a full-fledged NFL star.

Warner directed a high-powered St. Louis attack to a 13-3 season, setting a team record for passing yards with 4,353 and throwing 41 touchdown passes. He joined Dan Marino as the only player in NFL history to throw 40 or more TDs in a season.

He was the regular season MVP, a most unlikely candidate for the award, given his humble football roots. A year ago, he said, even he wouldn't have dreamed of this.

"At the time, it wasn't very realistic to think I'd be the starter in the Super Bowl,'' Warner said. "They were trying to figure out if I was good enough to be the backup.

"I always believed in myself. There were no doubts that if I ever got the opportunity, that I could be successful. I continued to believe that through the times I worked in the supermarket and the times I played in Arena Football. I never lost sight of that. To me, that's what it's all about — believing in yourself, waiting for that opportunity and then seizing it when it came.

"I was just hoping I would get an opportunity throughout the season to play and to show people what I could do.''

And that turned out to be plenty.

His performance bordered on startling. He led the league with a quarterback rating of 109.2 and gave every longshot football player the hope that someday he could duplicate this kind of unexpected success.

For Warner, it was no surprise.

"I just went out and did what I expected myself to do from day one, things I've been doing for the last few years,'' he said. "It just happens that some people who hadn't seen me do it, got to see me do it this year.''

And on Sunday he did it in pro football's top showcase.