Welcome to another edition of the Flashback Friday feature on Football Meets Football. This week it is the turn of the American footballer, and we will be looking at journeyman quarterback Trent Dilfer. If you have any suggestions for players you would like to have featured in this article leave a comment on here, on our Facebook page or on our Twitter (@FBmeetsFB).
Trent Farris Dilfer was born on 13th March 1972 in Santa Cruz, California. He attended Aptos High School in his native state. He was lightly regarded as a quarterback prospect coming out of high school, with some of the few colleges that offered scholarships telling him they would only recruit him if he played tight end or linebacker. But Fresno State saw potential in him as a quarterback and he became a Bulldog in 1991.
He split time at quarterback with Mark Barsotti during his first year in college and had 69 completions from 109 attempts for 832 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs as the Bulldogs went 10-2 to win the Big West conference, but they would lose 28-21 to Bowling Green in the last ever California Bowl at the end of the year. In 1992 he was given the starting role and had a stellar year, going 188/360 for 3,000 yards, 21 TDs and 14 INTs as Fresno State finished 3rd in the West American Conference and came out of the Freedom Bowl with a 21-7 victory over USC despite being underdogs. 1993 was better still for Trent, as he went 254/396 for 3,799 yards, 30 TDs and just 5 INTs. Those stats were good enough to win him both the WAC Offensive Player of the Year award and the Sammy Baugh Trophy, awarded to the nations top college quarterback. He would also set an NCAA record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 271, a record that stood until 2007. The Bulldogs would win the WAC that year but would lose the Aloha Bowl to Colorado 41-30.
Dilfer skipped his senior year at college and declared himself eligible for the 1994 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 6th overall pick. He played sparingly during his rookie year but was named starter for his second season in 1995. The Buccaneers improved as a team that year as they went 7-9 which was their most wins recorded in a season since 1981, but it wasn’t the best of years for Trent as he threw for 2,774 yards with just 4 TDs and 18 INTs. 1996 would see the Bucs record fall to 6-10 but Dilfer managed to improve on his horrendous TD/INT ratio as he threw for 2,859 yards, 12 TDs and 19 INTs. 1997 would see rookie running back Warrick Dunn enter the fold for the Bucs, and paired with Mike ‘A-Train’ Alstott in the back field an improved running game took a lot of pressure off of Dilfer. He would throw for 2,555 yards, 21 TDs and 11 INTs as he led Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record, giving them their first play off appearance since 1982 where they would ultimately fall in the NFC Divisional round to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. The Buccaneers fell to 8-8 in 1998, and in 1999 Dilfer would start just 10 games as he suffered a season ending shoulder injury against the Seahawks. That would prove to be his last game in a Buccaneers uniform as he would enter free agency at the end of the season. He left Tampa Bay as the quarterback with the most wins in franchise history, a record that still stands to this day.
On 8th March 2000 Trent Dilfer signed with the Baltimore Ravens where he would be a backup to starting quarterback Tony Banks. The season would start well for Banks and Baltimore as the Ravens flew out of the blocks with a 5-1 record, however the offense was not firing on all cylinders. They did not score a touchdown during weeks 5-8, and following 2 straight losses in weeks 7 and 8 Dilfer was named starter. He did not turn things round immediately as he also failed to lead the Ravens to the end zone in a 9-6 loss to bitter rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he would not lose a game for the remainder of the season after that and the Ravens would finish 12-4 to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They were the 4th seed in the AFC and won their wildcard game 21-3 over the Denver Broncos, knocked off the 1st seed Tennessee Titans in the divisional round in Nashville with a 24-10 victory and secured a trip to Super Bowl XXXV with a 16-3 win in Oakland over the Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Dilfer would have a reasonably quiet day in the Super Bowl as he went 12/25 for 153 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs, but the Ravens rode their defence and cruised to a 34-7 win over the New York Giants. Trent Dilfer would be released by the Ravens during the off season, making him the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl and not be brought back by the same team the following year.
Dilfer would be signed by the Seattle Seahawks on 3rd August 2001, again taking a backup role, this time to Matt Hasslebeck. He would see action throughout the year as Hasslebeck suffered injuries – he started 4 games and won all 4 which meant he was on a 15-0 run as a starter including playoff games. The 2 of those wins would come in the last 2 weeks of the season to give the Seahawks a 9-7 record, but they would miss out on the playoffs. Thanks in part to his starting hot streak, the Seahawks signed Dilfer to a 4 year contract in the off-season and he went into training camp for the 2002 season penciled in as Seattle’s starting quarterback. Unfortunately Trent suffered a right knee injury in a pre-season game against the Indianapolis Colts so Matt Hasslebeck ended up as starting quarterback for the season opener. On return from the injury Dilfer would start weeks 2 through 8, going 2-4 before tearing his Achilles tendon in a game at Dallas, thus ending his season. During the off-season Trent lost his 5 year old son Trevin to a 40 day battle with heart disease. During this time he has openly admitted to drinking himself to sleep to cope with the loss. He still turned up with the Seahawks for the 2003 season and mentored Matt Hasslebeck, and played sparingly in relief between then and the end of his Seahawks tenure in 2004. He and Hasslebeck remain close friends as Matt helped Dilfer get through a very troubled period in his life.
The Cleveland Browns signed Trent in March 2005 with a view to him mentoring rookie quarterback Charlie Frye. The idea was Dilfer would start the season and Frye would be worked into the lineup as he learnt under him. However there was a locker room bust up between Trent and offensive co-ordinator Maurice Carthon and Trent wanted out of Cleveland. He would go on to start 11 of the 16 games that season , winning 4 as he became another name on the list of 28 Cleveland Browns quarterbacks that have started a game since 1999.
In May 2006 Trent got his wish and was traded from Cleveland to the San Francisco 49ers where it was hoped he would mentor their 2005 1st overall pick Alex Smith. Smith was the starter, and Dilfer did not feautre at all during the 2006 season. In 2007 he would start 6 games due to injuries to Smith, but would suffer a season ending concussion during a week 14 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Trent Dilfer announced his retirement on 9th July 2008. He suffered another Achilles injury playing basketball during that off season but had said he was planning on retiring before the injury happened. He would finish his career with 20,518 yards, 113 TDs and 129 INTs.
Since retiring Trent had a successful career in NFL broadcasting, working with NFL Network when he wasn’t playing between 2006-2008 and then working for ESPN between 2008-2017. He currently resides in Saratoga, California with his wife Cassandra, with whom he has three daughters – Madeline, Victoria and Delaney.