GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Austin Appleby was looking to transfer from Purdue, he reached out to a former NFL quarterback for advice.
With two years of starting experience under his belt and one season of immediate eligibility left, several schools pursued Appleby last December.
Trent Dilfer, who had a 13-year pro career and won Super Bowl XXXV, encouraged Appleby to attend Florida and play for coach Jim McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and program consultant Charlie Frye, also an ex-NFL quarterback who was teammates with Dilfer on the Cleveland Browns in 2005.
“There were places in the SEC I could’ve went, there was an opportunity to maybe stay in the Big 10 and everywhere in between,” Appleby told SEC Country. “I bounced Florida off of Trent and he was like, ‘Man, go for it. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. You’re going to get the best coaching in the country with coach Mac and coach Nuss, and then Coach Frye. Go be a dreamer, go all in.’
“That’s what I’m doing. I have a chance to be part of something extremely special and have an opportunity to compete and be the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators and go win a championship, and then hopefully move on to the next level. That’s always been my goal and been my dream, and I’m going after it.”
In addition to his ESPN analyst gig, Dilfer serves as head coach of the Elite 11, an annual competition featuring the nation’s top high school quarterbacks. Appleby earned an invite to the 2011 event and was named as one of the 11 finalists.
The two have remained in contact regularly since then.
“It was one of the best football experiences I’ve ever had and the most I’ve been able to grow from,” Appleby said of the Elite 11. “To get around Trent Dilfer, who is one of my closest mentors now. I still talk to him very, very frequently, every couple weeks. He’s been unbelievable for me and someone I can lean on. He’s put me in touch with a lot of great people.
“Just to go and compete with the best of the best. I know he’s not a very popular name around here, but Jameis Winston was in the dorms with us. There’s a lot of others who are moving on to do great things. So just to go compete and to learn from the best coaches and best players in the country, many of them playing on Sundays now, it was great to turn it on and earn a spot in that final 11.”
Appleby is aiming to have similar success in Florida’s quarterback competition for the 2016 season (read more). Here is footage from Appleby’s Elite 11 experience.