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Trent Dilfer Quarterbacks His Re-Purposed Pain

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Trent Dilfer is still the impassioned quarterback! First fueled by a 14-year NFL career, then as a prime-time football analyst. Now he roams sidelines and weight rooms as Lipscomb Academy’s head coach, shaping young sons from the crucible of his own journey. Trent says, “God takes what we view as tragedy and turns it into triumph. And I'm now wise enough to see that happen. The football’s cool, and we don't sacrifice it ever. But it is a subplot to the bigger thing that's going on here. And guess what that's gonna be, great husbands, compassionate people, and empathetic people, and people that handle social justice issues the right way. We want to fill that gap out of a small Christian school in Nashville.”

Question: “Is there a quarterback in all of us?”

Trent Dilfer: “A lot of people like the ‘flash and sizzle’ of the quarterback. Very few want the burden that comes with it. Your job is to make everybody around you better. And you can’t make them better unless you’re bringing them together. And you can’t bring them together if it’s about you!” 

Question: “Halfway into your 14 NFL seasons, you win the Super Bowl with the Ravens. Ultimately, was that enough to satisfy your NFL ambition?”

Trent Dilfer: “No! I'm very honest that I'm very, very disappointed in my career. I underachieved, was a terrible teammate early, didn't attack the development part like I should have. Our defense, obviously, is arguably the greatest of all time! We played with great togetherness! It makes the disappointment of my personal performance worthwhile, because I was part of something truly great.”

Question: “2003, you’re approaching your 10th season. Your five year-old son, Trevin surprisingly grows sick! It changed your life.”

Trent Dilfer: “He gets a virus that attacks his heart, one in a million. It kills his heart in a matter of days! He gets resuscitated four times. Miraculously he gets put on life support when they say it could never happen. He’s on that life support system for 40 days. Uh, he gets a systemic infection. We understand that this is out of our control! To have to turn off life support and to watch end of life of your son … that’s the hard part, putting myself in his shoes as he went through this.”

Question: “Rock bottom!” 

Trent Dilfer: “Rock bottom's probably the best way to explain it. Anger is my default for pain. The scar tissue that builds up gets thicker. Self-awareness of what the pain's done to you. Fear sets in at that point. Because now you're afraid what it's gonna do to your kids, your spouse, your loved ones! Numbing, sorrow of life, not being the same.”

Trent Dilfer: “This is the beauty of this story. We took our kids to a breakfast place on Monday nights called a ‘crazy dinner’. And as we’re walking out that night my five year-old son pulls on my jeans and says, ‘dad, I want to know Jesus’. I said, ‘that’s awesome! And he goes, ‘I want to know Jesus right now!’ This is the Holy Spirit working through a five year-old saying, ‘I’m calling you to me this moment’! And we kneel at a pancake house while people are walking in, as the girls walked behind us, and Trevin at five years old, authentically prayed to receive Jesus.  So lets fast-forward six months later when we’re turning off life-support – we know we’re he’s going. Now we can thank God that’s he’s with Him instead of with us.”

Question: “You played five more seasons, you jump in with ESPN for a decade. Then coaching-up prospects.”

Trent Dilfer: “The end of my career at ESPN hardened me. Definitely some good things that came out of that. But it hardened me as a man! My kids started seeing it. I had lost some gentleness. I had gotten complacent. I was chasing the world. I was edgier.”

Question: “But you started to be confronted about significance. What challenged you?” 

Trent Dilfer: “Yeah, I did not feel like I was having an impact! Said, ‘OK, Lord, I’m listening’ – obviously you’re doing something! And He just made it really clear that I’d had said ‘no’ to serve Him, to do hard things, to be uncomfortable, to have impact.  To show grace and mercy that’s been shown to me! And I hadn’t been doing it and I’d been serving myself.”

In 2019, a high school coaching search brought Lipscomb Academy to Trent for recommendations. Instead of taking his advice, they offered him the job. He surprisingly took it! A rebuild for the program and a renewal ¬¬for Trent! 

Trent Dilfer: “I'm going to coach a high school football team that has 38 kids on it that won three games in two years … and that’s where He took me!”

Question: “Turning agony around! Are you seeing this transformation playing out before your eyes?” 

Trent Dilfer: “I am! I think that comes from all this pain that's now being repurposed in this passion to see every individual in my care chase their best and understand that their best is the same power that rose Christ from the dead lives in us and gives life to our mortal bodies. The power of raising Christ from the dead lives in us and that's the passion! And I’m fired up!

Question: “Do you see Trevin in the eyes of those high school kids?”

Trent Dilfer: “Oh yeah, every single kid! I tear up every once in awhile…probably tear up now…

Question: “You’re giving them the mechanics of a coach but the heart of a dad!”

Trent Dilfer: “I'm simply pouring my life into your kid. Let him be the fullness of who he is. His God-given potential and all that goes with that.”  

Question: “Where do you find your savior Jesus in the face of suffering?”

Trent Dilfer: “There's a lot of pain. And that's where I'm seeing Jesus surface the most, cause that's where He meets people the most intimately! You are broken, you are confused, you are angry, you are hurting! Guess where Jesus is? He's right there! He's like, ‘I got you’. The redemptive quality of Christ has taken really bad stuff and turned it into good stuff. That’s where I’m seeing Jesus the most as a coach.”

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About The Author

Tom Buehring

Tom currently travels as a National Sports Correspondent for The 700 Club and CBN News. He engages household sports names to consider the faith they’ve discovered within their own unique journey. He has over 30 years of experience as a TV sports anchor, show host, reporter and producer, working commercially at stations in Seattle, Tampa, Nashville and Fayetteville where he developed, launched and hosted numerous nightly and weekly shows and prime-time specials. Prior to his TV market hopping, Tom proposed and built an academic/intern television broadcast program at the University of North