ATLANTA — You're a movie producer looking for a football drama and three scripts come across your desk.
The first is about a quarterback who stocks supermarket shelves while dreaming of winning the Super Bowl, then eventually makes his dream come true.
"Rocky" with a helmet.
Forget it. Too unbelievable.
The second is about a coach who gets out of the game for 15 years, then comes back as a senior citizen to win the Super Bowl.
"The Old Man and the Tee."
Not interested. Pure fantasy.
The third is about a former chorus girl who outlives her sixth husband, inherits his football team, abandons the big city and takes that team back to her hometown, then wins a Super Bowl.
"Any Given Sunday" meets "Evita."
Who would buy that?
Yet, unlikely as they seem, Sunday night, all three fantasies became reality when the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, 23-16, and Monday, the afterglow was still casting warmth.
Kurt Warner didn't sleep at all Sunday night. Maybe he was afraid that when he woke up, this season would turn out to be a dream.
"I don't think it has dawned on me that we won the Super Bowl and that I have a ring," he said.
After having been cut by the Green Bay Packers, after having played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena League, after having been rejected by 12 NFL teams, after having played for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe, after having signed with the Rams and then having been exposed in the expansion draft, Warner finally got his opportunity this season when starter Trent Green's season ended with a knee injury in an exhibition game.
Warner responded with a most-valuable-player regular season, throwing 41 touchdown passes. Then he threw the 30-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl in the NFC championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Sunday threw the Super Bowl-winning pass to Isaac Bruce on a 73-yard play against the Titans, rounding out a game in which he completed 24 of 45 passes for a Super Bowl-record 414 yards.
Yet even as he received the Super Bowl MVP award here Monday from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Warner looked back from the peak to the valley, to the days when he was making $5.50 an hour stocking shelves in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while playing Arena football.
"When I met my wife [Brenda], she was on food stamps," Warner said. "I had to do something at night to make money so I could keep playing.
"But that helps to keep things in perspective. I don't take anything for granted."
Warner said he never lost his ambition.
"I didn't know how much longer I could play before people would think I was too old [for the NFL]," he said. "But I was going to play Arena football, or whatever, as long as I could do so and support my family."
Warner's off-season project, besides reaping some of the endorsement benefits of his new-found fame, will be to try to keep the Rams intact.
The Rams have three unrestricted free agents, cornerback Todd Lyght, tackle Fred Miller and center Mike Gruttadauria, and three restricted free agents, safety Billy Jenkins, cornerback Dexter McCleon and guard Tom Nutten.
"I'm not a guy who is motivated by money," said Warner who, nevertheless, figures to have plenty of it. "Hopefully, some of that will rub off on the other players and we will be able to keep them together. We do have something special here."
His coach, Dick Vermeil, is on the same wave length.
"We have a good organization," Vermeil said. "If the dollars are close, hopefully some players will stay here, although it seems impossible to keep them all."
The Rams are sixth among the 31 NFL teams in financial flexibility under the salary cap.
"We are a very young team with a lot of talent," Warner said. "It looks like we could be in place for a long time, but you never know what tomorrow brings."
Nobody knows that better than Warner.
Is 63-year-old Vermeil, with two years remaining on his contract, coming back after fulfilling his Super Bowl aspirations?
"Probably," he said Monday.
First, however, he has to talk with his wife.
"Carol Vermeil can be persuasive," said announcer Brent Musburger, a close friend of Vermeil. "And she may talk to him about retirement."
She will have a battle on her hands. Monday morning, Vermeil was already talking about next season.
"I think we need to be a little tougher in training camp," he said. "We are such a finesse team that I think we lost a little edge in the trenches. You can't just turn that switch back on.
"We dropped a snap on a field-goal attempt [in the Super Bowl], we missed a field goal and we didn't convert in the red zone very well. We need to rebuild that edge of toughness."
Sounded as if, in his mind, he's already in training camp.
The Rams left town, arrived in a new city, won the championship after several years on a game-winning, 73-yard touchdown pass play, and never was a tear shed for its old home.