AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Dilfer talks golf, football and life after at ACC media day
Ryan Summerlin June 10, 2011
STATELINE, Nev. – It’s not uncommon for professional athletes to peak, mentally or physically, at different points in their career.
That was one of just a few things former NFL quarterback and current ESPN football analyst Trent Dilfer talked about as he chronicled his career path along with a number of other topics when he joined local and national media at Edgewood Tahoe Thursday.
In preparation for the American Century Championships in July, Dilfer joined fan-favorite Charles Barkley and NBA star Shane Battier in a media-only Q&A session. After which Dilfer took time to hit the course and talk about the American Century Championships as well as a number of other topics.
“I don’t know if there’s a more beautiful place on the planet,” Dilfer said. “I think that’s one of the things that makes the American Century Championship so special is the venue. Edgewood does a great job hosting, NBC, American Century, obviously do an incredible job. I get exhilarated just coming up here. I love golf, I love competing, and I love this place.”
For a Super Bowl winning quarterback, most might have assumed athletically Dilfer peaked around the time he took Tampa Bay to their first-ever NFL playoffs. Or the year he quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens to the Lombardi Trophy.
Not so said the Santa Cruz, Calif. native and Fresno State product.
The peak of his career came when he met the coaching staff in Seattle after signing as a free agent in 2002.
Dilfer was under contract initially with the thought of being a good fit into Mike Holmgren’s system, backing up Matt Hasslebeck who was an up-and-comer and prodigy of coach Holmgren in Green Bay.
It didn’t take Dilfer long to see his first action though when Hasselbeck injured his groin in week three against the Oakland Raiders. Dilfer would start and win the next two games for Seattle before being replaced by a healthy Hasselbeck the following week.
After Hasslebeck began struggling later on that season, Dilfer came in and started the final two games of the 2002 season, winning both and keeping Seattle in the playoff hunt. He ended the season by throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions in two three-point victories. The Seahawks’ AFC (they were still in the AFC in 2001) wild-card hopes ended when the Ravens beat the Minnesota Vikings 19-3 on Monday Night Football. At the end of the season, Dilfer’s passer rating was 92.0 and he had won 15 straight starts.
It was Holmgren, Dilfer says, and assistant Jim Zorn that really brought out the best in the pro-bowler.
“Mike taught me more than anything else that you can take a very complex game and simplify it for a players mind,” Dilfer said. “I came to Seattle and I was kind of stuck. I was eight years into my career and sort of paralyzed, paralysis by analysis. Mike though really freed up my mind. He hires good coaches. And for the first time in my career, I had a good quarterbacks coach behind me in Jim Zorn. I was equipped to be successful. And I would have been very successful had I not torn my Achilles. I was playing very well for him.”
After Dilfer’s Oct. 2002 injury, he came back in 2003 and played sparingly in a relief role, and was primarily used to mentor Hasselbeck.
In 2004, Dilfer started in only two games, and won them both. After the season he moved on to Cleveland and then San Francisco where he retired from football and had to make a decision on what he wanted to do next.
“I had to make a decision when I was done playing, and was asked to fast-track into either head coaching or a GM position,” Dilfer said. “But I didn’t want that lifestyle. I wanted to stay involved in the game though and TV was the next best thing.”
After interning following retirement, Dilfer had rolls built up with NFL Network. Opportunities arose with NFL Network, FOX Sports, NBC, CBS and ESPN, but Dilfer said ESPN just made sense for him because he was truly looking to make a career out of it.
“Working for ESPN is not a dream at all, because I never thought I would do it. But I enjoy teaching people about football and I think that’s why I like it,” Dilfer said. “My philosophy is to enhance the viewers experience by educating them about the game of football.
“My family loves it. They like the freedom of my schedule and what it provides us and they know that I’m fulfilled by maintaining my interest in football.”
Dilfer was noticeably aboard the Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Packers bandwagon during their 2010-11 Super Bowl run, but ESPN’s player-turned-analyst isn’t tabbing them as a shoe-in to repeat.
“That would be a tough challenge … so many things have to go right to go back,” Dilfer said. “I wouldn’t put them as one of my top two teams out of the NFC. I like them as a team, but I just think the challenge of repeating is so hard. There is so much external stuff that goes on that prevents you from having the same type of success. It takes a special group, and I don’t know if that group – outside of the Woodson’s and the Rodgers’ and some of their core players – I just don’t know if they have enough veteran-moxy type guys to do that.”