Trent Dilfer might be having a better career off the football field than he ever had on it. He’s established himself as a perceptive analyst for ESPN and he’s a plus-something golfer who boasts a career-low round of 62.
When I spoke to Dilfer at length for a Golf Digest Q-and-A, he was refreshingly honest about his shortcomings as an NFL quarterback. “I have no problem saying this: I feel like I never reached my potential as a player,” he said.
Dilfer’s totals from his 14-year NFL career are pedestrian at best: 113 touchdowns, 129 interceptions and 20,518 passing yards, which is an average of eight touchdowns, nine picks and just under 1,500 yards per year. But Dilfer has something that Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Donovan McNabb all wish they had: a ring. Dilfer was the Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback in 2000 until starter Tony Banks got hurt. When Dilfer took over in week 6, the Ravens won that game, and their record went to 5-1. Then they lost three in a row, the third game a 9-6 loss to the Steelers in which the two teams combined for five field goals. That was the last time the Ravens would lose that season. They finished by winning 11 straight and beat the Giants in the Super Bowl 34-7 (above). That year Dilfer finished with 12 TDs, 11 INTs, 1,502 yards and completed 59.3 percent of his passes, just a little better than his career averages in every category.
In my conversation with Dilfer--click here for the full transcript
--the former player was as articulate and open as we’ve come to expect from him on TV. He talked about how golf has been a spiritual thread throughout his life, from a teenager tight-roping around trouble to a grieving father who used the lessons of the game to help him deal with the loss of his son (Trevin Dilfer died of heart disease at the age of 5 in 2003).
“When you go through something like losing your son, you can’t just check out of life,” says Dilfer. “I think I used that line once when I was at a speaking engagement and I was talking about my son. I said, ‘I had a choice: I could walk off the course or I could go dig it out of a buried lie in a bunker.’ That’s the approach we’ve taken as a family.”
On the eve of yet another Steelers/Ravens tilt, Dilfer refers to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as a “flippin’ freak” and says the 2000 Ravens defense was the best ever. Dilfer also shares some travel tips for playing golf in Tahoe and tells of expensive lesson from Lee Janzen when Dilfer made the mistake of trying to beat a tour player.
Click below to hear Dilfer tell that story:
After two torn Achilles tendons, bone spurs in his left ankle and 12 shoulder separations, I’m betting Dilfer is now content to call himself an avid golfer, an analyst, a dedicated dad and a football fan as he watches tomorrow’s Ravens/Steelers game the same way we will, without a helmet on.
Then again, there are guys like my buddy Devin Pedzwater, an avid Steelers fan who was last seen tightening his chinstrap.
Photographs courtesy of Getty Images (football) and AP (golf).