A former San Francisco 49ers quarterback is pulling this rare trend in 2022 that Jeff Saturday helped start: Going from high school football head coach, to having an ESPN background all the way to landing a head coaching gig.
This time, it involves a past Niners QB and Bay Area native who had his last NFL stop with the 49ers: Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer Lands HC Gig in College Football
John Brice of Football Scoop first reported on Tuesday, November 29 that Trent Dilfer is on his way to take over the head coaching reins at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
The website then confirmed Wednesday morning that both UAB and the QB who played the 2007 season in San Francisco are finalizing a deal to allow him to coach UAB.
A move like this can draw parallels to Saturday’s process. The legendary Indianapolis Colts center and past Super Bowl champion had a three year stint coaching high school football at Hebron Christian High in Dacula, Georgia from 2017 to 2020. He left coaching to take on analyst role with the worldwide network, making a bulk of his appearances on NFL Live while also appearing on various radio shows and podcasts on the ESPN platform.
But once the Colts fired Frank Reich in early November 2022 after a 3-5-1 start, Saturday was lured in swiftly by the franchise he won Super Bowl 41 with — completing the journey of high school coach, to analyst to NFL head coach.
Dilfer, 50, has had a near similar trajectory. Except he had his ESPN stint before Saturday was hired as part of the Monday Night Countdown crew and joining other ESPN shows to share his football knowledge. As for coaching, Dilfer was first heavily involved with the Elite 11 QB showcase that involves him coaching some of the top high school signal-callers in the nation. He was additionally a QB coach for The Opening with Nike. He’s recently led Lipscomb Academy in Tennessee to a state title appearance and won the 2021 Division II-AA state championship with the Mustangs. He compiled a 42-10 overall record there according to The Tennessean. He also has Lipscomb Academy ranked No. 14 in the nation by USA Today — as the only Tennessee representative nationally ranked.
The difference with Dilfer is that he’s not assuming a head coaching role in the NFL. He’s also not taking over a Power 5 university. The Blazers currently play football in Conference USA — a group of five conference and mid-major university. However, Dilfer’s hire also comes during a period of transition: UAB is set to join the American Athletic Conference effective July 1, 2023 as part of the latest rounds of conference realignment.
Dilfer With the 49ers
Dilfer’s signing with the 49ers was perceived by many as his Northern California homecoming.
Dilfer grew up in Santa Cruz, California and attended Aptos High School. He went on to Fresno State and became the Bulldogs’ first top 10 draft pick at QB in 1994. Dilfer then had stops with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won his only Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000 season, then played for Seattle and Cleveland before landing with the 49ers in 2007.
His 49ers career, though, ended with him going 1-5 overall and completing just 51.6% of his throws according to Pro Football Reference. He also threw just seven touchdown passes and was intercepted 12 times.
For his NFL career, Dilfer delivered two 21-touchdown seasons including his lone Pro Bowl campaign of 1997.