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A QUICK PITCH

Following the Super Bowl, quarterback Trent Dilfer rode the marketing roller coaster to national renown. Now, he may be headed back down.

The Super Bowl introduced the world to Trent Dilfer, and he didn't waste any time taking advantage of it.

As players milled around the field at Raymond James Stadium after the game, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback earned $75,000 just by looking into a camera and saying, "I'm going to Disney World."

The same weekend, home shopping channel QVC sold about 150 footballs signed by Dilfer and Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas, at $348 each.

And a few days later, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star asked "got milk?" in ads for the Milk Processor Education Program in USA Today and Sports Illustrated.

It was quite a turnaround in the endorsement game for Dilfer. Back when he played to lackluster reviews for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dilfer's only major deals involved a Nike shoe endorsement like those shared by dozens of athletes and local appearances on WTSP-Ch. 10 and WQYK radio station.

Still, Dilfer's deals have slowed down since that post-Bowl rush. It takes more than one game _ even the Super Bowl _ to turn a player into a world-class endorser, sports marketing experts say.

"The game will help Dilfer get considered for national campaigns, but he's still not going to be in the category of a Brett Favre, a Steve Young, a Troy Aikman," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service Inc. in Chicago. Burns Sports matches up corporations with sports stars for deals.

And while Williams says Dilfer is fortunate in some respects _ he was the obvious choice as a Ravens endorser because of star linebacker Ray Lewis' off-the-field problems _ the quarterback has several disadvantages.

"He didn't have a spectacular game," Williams said. "He was starting from scratch in name recognition. And he doesn't have a compelling story like a Kurt Warner, who came from nowhere to even make the NFL."

The biggest uncertainty looming over Dilfer, who's now a free agent: He hasn't yet signed with another team, and other NFL clubs aren't exactly beating down his door.

Still, his business manager, H Koal, said he isn't worried. "We have a number of things going that will be worked out in the next few weeks," said Koal, a San Jose, Calif., businessman who also handles deals for Bucs safety John Lynch.

"We want to develop good relationships with companies, not just look to make every nickel and dime we can right now," he said. "That takes time."

Dilfer, who now lives in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area of Nevada, also has been making some personal appearances at corporate outings such as golf tournaments. "But he didn't want to make a huge number of those, by choice," Koal said. "He wanted some down time."

Beyond the Disney deal, Koal won't say how much Dilfer is bringing in for his endorsements, but it's safe to say he's made at least several hundred thousand dollars. That's on top of his salary, which was $1-million last season.

So what is he going to do with the money?

In the past 15 months, Dilfer has bought two Chrysler dealerships near Fresno, Calif., where he starred at Fresno State. And he and Koal are exploring the possibility of getting involved with a national group of dealers.

"He is getting his feet wet with it, to get comfortable," Koal said.

The two dealerships carry Dilfer's name _ there's Dilfer Chrysler, Dodge & Jeep in Porterville, Calif., and Dilfer Motors in Delano, Calif.

But there are no big pictures of him in the lobby or other signs that an NFL quarterback is the owner.

That quiet style means unless his on-the-field performance is spectacular, Dilfer will never get as many endorsements as flashier players.

But Koal said Dilfer's style has its advantages.

"Corporate people say they're impressed that Trent is a classy guy," Koal said. "He didn't bad-mouth the Bucs when he left Tampa last year, and I think that counted for a lot."

_ Staff writer Kyle Parks can be contacted at parkssptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

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