Trent Dilfer is back. But it’s not the return anyone would expect.
The man considered one of the best quarterbacks in Fresno State history, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and who forged a career off the field as ESPN analyst before being unceremoniously fired two years ago … is coaching. At a private, Christian high school. In Tennessee.
Six months ago, he took the job of head football coach at Lipscomb Academy, a K-12 prep school that shares the name of a college in Nashville. Lipscomb won a total of three games in the last two seasons. Dilfer, who had been largely killing time at his home in Austin, Texas, since ESPN cut him loose in a cost-cutting binge, has been working his new charges hard in spring practices.
In a remarkable story published Thursday by the Washington Post, Dilfer said he was driven by a need to do something meaningful with his life, and to honor the memory of his only son, Trevin, who died of heart disease at age 5 in 2003.
A Memorable Star for Fresno State
Dilfer says running these young men through drills and investing in their lives gives him a sense of what it would be like to have a son of high school age.
“It’s a cheesy way of us getting to see what it feels like, right?” Dilfer says. “I think that’s part of it. It’s not the part, but it’s a part of it.”
As a college quarterback, Dilfer made an indelible mark on the Valley. He started for three seasons for the Bulldogs, throwing for 53 touchdowns and totaling more than 7,600 yards. He led the nation in passing efficiency in his final season, 1993, before deciding as a junior to go pro.
He was drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay, and six seasons later landed on the Baltimore team that beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. His final pro stop was in San Francisco, where he mentored a young Alex Smith.
Now, at age 47, he’s mentoring a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds, directing passing drills and goal-line stands.
“I think this is the passion that’s been sequestered for a while,” Dilfer tells the Post. “I was passionate about my kids, there was purpose there — but professional passion, I think it’s all just kind of coming out now.”