Friday, February 9, 2001
Dilfers rideLIHUE -- For a pro football fan, it's hard to imagine a sight more amazing than retired NFL quarterbacks Boomer Esiason, Jim Everett, Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Warren Moon, Phil Simms and Steve Young tossing ("tossing" hardly describes the way these guys throw) footballs to each other in a small high school stadium.
The Super Bowl champion
quarterback is the best at the
NFL's QB Challenge skills
test on the Garden Island
By Anthony Sommer
But there they were yesterday at Lihue's Vidinha Stadium for a new event at the NFL Quarterback Challenge -- a made-for-TV post-Pro Bowl event that has become Kauai's premier tourism advertisement. The new "Million Dollar Throw" is open only to retired NFL quarterbacks and offers $1 million to any of them who can throw a football through a hole just barely bigger than the ball at a range of 30 yards.
None of them even came close, but it didn't matter.
The NFL Quarterback Challenge, a skills contest for active players, was won by Trent Dilfer, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a 34-7 blowout victory over the New York Giants in the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.
That didn't much matter either.
The 5,000 people who packed the small stadium (most of them school children) were there to see Dilfer, Jake Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals (who won the last two years), Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles, Rob Johnson of the Buffalo Bills and Jeff Garcia of the San Francisco 49ers, all on the same field with each other and with the retired quarterbacks.
The contest won't be aired by CBS Sports until July on the weekend before preseason games begin.
Meanwhile, a few snapshots:
On Tuesday, many of the quarterbacks gave speeches at elementary schools across Kauai and a few probably never will be forgotten by the kids who saw them. Dilfer gave an autograph to each of the 150 children who attended his speech at Hanalei Elementary School. Everett, the retired Rams' quarterback , went one better by speaking to the students at St. Francis Elementary, a Catholic school, and then going to mass with the kids afterwards.The TV cameras were all pointed at Johnson's girlfriend to catch her reaction when he won.
Gary Baldwin, head of the Kauai Economic Development Board, which organizes the annual quarterback contest, said between The NFL Quarterback Challenge and "Dragonfly," a Kevin Costner movie in production on Kauai, not a single portable toilet was available for rent anywhere on the island yesterday.
While many of the other quarterbacks were playing catch between events, Young, the retired San Francisco 49ers' quarterback, was inside one of the tents beside the field. He was holding his 2-month-old son Braden and singing him a lullaby.
Simms, the retired New York Giants' quarterback and now an announcer for CBS Sports, and Esiason, formerly an announcer on ABC Sports "Monday Night Football," shared tales of woe about how much weight they've gained while on the road as television commentators.
By the time the final NFL Quarterback Challenge event came along, Dilfer was a distant second behind Johnson. All Johnson had to do to win it all was hit any spot on any one of a half dozen targets.
Cass Dilfer, Trent's wife, was standing on the sidelines wondering aloud whether she and her husband would make a 2 p.m. flight so they could get home to Fresno, Calif., that night.
Johnson picked a target, threw and missed it completely, handing Dilfer the victory.
"Winning," Cass Dilfer said as she waved to Johnson's girlfriend then ran out on the field to congratulate her husband. "That's what this game's all about."