St. Petersburg Times: Super Bowl XXXV
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Super Bowl XXXV Tampa, Florida 2001
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  • The Road to Super Bowl XXXV

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    Bucs glad for Dilfer's success

    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Trent Dilfer and tight end Dave Moore celebrate a touchdown in their game against the Vikings in 1999.

    By ROGER MILLS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 16, 2001


    TAMPA -- The Ravens were on the team bus after beating Oakland when Trent Dilfer's mobile phone rang. It was a call from a long-time friend in Tampa.

    photo
    Lynch
    Bucs Pro Bowl safety John Lynch wasted no time congratulating his former teammate on Baltimore's 16-3 win in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

    Like so many members of the Bucs, Lynch knew what it meant to Dilfer to play in the Super Bowl in Tampa, one season after Shaun King's arrival forced the quarterback to leave the town he called home for his first six NFL seasons.

    Like many of the Bucs, Lynch knew what a long road it had been.

    "He said to me, "I wish I could share this with you,' " Lynch said. "It was a nice moment, and I could tell that he was extremely happy. Him saying that to me speaks to the class he has.

    "We played together six years and when you play together that long, you develop a closeness, you become family. Trent went through a lot of adversity while he was the quarterback for the Buccaneers, so to see him having this kind of success, you can't help but be happy for the guy."

    photo
    Brooks
    Added Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks: "Good things happen to good people, so (making the Super Bowl) could not have happened to a better person."

    The sixth overall pick in the 1994 draft, the junior out of Fresno State entered the NFL expecting to be the savior to the Bucs litany of quarterback woes. By his second season, Dilfer moved into the starting spot and through the next four years seemed to develop into a durable and steady, if not spectacular, player.

    He started all 16 games for the Bucs between the 1995 and 1998 seasons and enjoyed his best year in 1997 when he made the Pro Bowl. That season, Dilfer set a team record with 21 touchdown passes and finished with the second highest single-season passer rating in club history (82.8).

    But Dilfer, who threw 80 regular-season interceptions during his tenure with the Bucs, never was without his critics. The team drafted Tulane quarterback Shaun King in the second round in 1999, creating further speculation about Dilfer's future going into the final season of his contract.

    photo
    Wunsch
    "First of all, I was so happy for Trent considering all the negative stuff he went through when he was here," right tackle Jerry Wunsch said. "It was a hard road for him. We all lived through all of the negative fan and media criticism that he endured. So, from a personal standpoint, I'm thrilled that he's coming back to Tampa Bay and is 60 minutes away from being a Super Bowl championship quarterback."

    Dilfer entered last season as the starter, lost the job, regained it, then broke his collar bone Nov. 28 at Seattle. King started the final six games and led the team to the NFC Championship Game.

    The Bucs opted not to pick up the nearly $9-million option for two more years on Dilfer's contract. He signed a one-year, $1-million deal with the Ravens to back up starter Tony Banks.

    "I always said that (Trent) was good enough to take a team to the Super Bowl," Dungy said. "I just wish it would have been us. ... I'm glad that he is proving me right."

    Added tight end Dave Moore: "I remember when he got hurt in Seattle and we replaced him with Shaun and Shaun got hot and won four of the final five games of the season. It seemed like the fans and the media couldn't run him out of town fast enough. I told him on the sideline during one of our final games that year that I hoped he would catch on somewhere and be successful. ... Obviously, that has happened."

    To his credit, Dilfer publicly showed no bitterness toward the organization. He said he understood the decision to go with King and accepted the business nature of the decision not to re-sign him.

    "He's a first-class guy," Wunsch said. "Everyone who knows him knows that about him. Despite all of the negative comments and stories, he's not angry, he's not bitter and that in itself is amazing."

    Added fullback Mike Alstott: "I'm thrilled for him. It's been a rough road, especially his time in Tampa. For him to go to another team and do what he has done is amazing. He's a great competitor and deserves to be where he is. I'll be rooting for him."

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