Trent Dilfer had never coached college football before the 2023 season. In fact, his only coaching experience was four years as Lipscomb Academy, a high school in Nashville, Tennessee.
None of that stopped Alabama-Birmingham from hiring the 14-year NFL veteran to lead its revitalized program, which was terminated in 2014 but returned in 2017.
So why did UAB hire the 2000 Super Bowl champion, and why did Dilfer choose UAB?
As UAB gets set to face No. 1 Georgia, here's a look at Dilfer's road to the college game:
Why is Trent Dilfer UAB's coach?
Dilfer spent four seasons coaching at Lipscomb Academy. He led the Mustangs to a 25-1 record with two state championships in his final two seasons, despite taking over a program that finished 2-9 the year before he arrived.
Dilfer has drawn comparisons to Deion Sanders, with both making the jump to college head coach despite no prior college coaching experience.
However, Dilfer said his plan was never to parlay Lipscomb into a college job, despite how it turned out.
“I unretired to coach high school football,” he told The Tennessean in February. “I don’t like saying this because it sounds braggadocious. But Google my house in Austin. Google my vacation home. I was very successful in both football and TV. I don’t have to be doing anything. … I’m not trying to do one thing so I can get another thing.”
So how did Dilfer, a California native who starred at Fresno State, end up at UAB?
“Football mattered here,” he said. “A lot.”
Why is Trent Dilfer confident in UAB’s future?
UAB is in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, perhaps the best league outside the Power Five in college football. That, paired with a new stadium that opened in 2021, has Dilfer confident in the future.
“I think we’re in as good a position as anybody that’s not named a Power Five program,” Dilfer says. “… Win the American, be in the College Football Playoff. I think (my vision) is bigger than that, but that would be the tangible accolades, so to speak.”
Why did UAB athletic director Mark Ingram hire Dilfer?
UAB athletic director Mark Ingram explained his thought process on hiring Dilfer at Dilfer’s introductory press conference last November.
“I’ve got to admit that initially, like some of you probably, I thought, ‘I am not hiring a high school football coach,’” Ingram said. “I’m just not going to do that. Frankly, I was right. I’m not hiring a high school football coach. I’m hiring the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft. A guy who spent 14 years playing quarterback at the highest level.
“I’m hiring a guy that’s a pro bowler who was a starting quarterback on a Super Bowl championship team. A guy who spent nine years with ESPN doing analytics, commentary and draft coverage. A guy who’s the head coach of the nation’s premier passing academy, Elite 11, and has coached countless college and NFL quarterbacks.
“And yes, a guy who has been successful turning around his high school program over the last four years into one of the nation’s powers.”
Trent Dilfer’s Super Bowl stats, NFL career
Dilfer played three college seasons at Fresno State before being drafted No. 6 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1994 NFL Draft.
Dilfer played for the Buccaneers from 1994-99 before being signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, where he won Super Bowl 35 as the starting quarterback. Dilfer completed 12 of 25 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown in the 34-7 win over the N.Y. Giants.
The 51-year-old was hired by ESPN as an NFL analyst in 2008, where he worked until 2017. Dilfer was also the head coach of the Elite 11 quarterback competition, where the best high school quarterbacks in the country face off.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Why is Trent Dilfer coaching UAB? From Super Bowl to college football