Almost every life decision that confronted Jack Del Rio had a sports undercurrent, which is partly why his brief foray behind a Merrill Lynch desk was difficult for Tony Dungy to accept.

Del Rio had just finished his 11- season NFL playing career, which came after his exploits at Southern California (Rose Bowl MVP and catcher for Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire), coming on the heels of being a three-sport jock at Hayward High School in northern California.

"My real passion was basketball," Del Rio said last week at Dove Valley after a news conference as the Broncos' interim head coach. "That was my favorite sport."

A point guard who can handle the ball and shoot from beyond the top of the circle, a prep baseball player good enough to get drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, an All-American and Pro Bowl linebacker, a father who raised a quarterback who is redshirting with none other than the Alabama Crimson Tide — it's difficult to imagine this athletic freak from an era gone by working behind a desk as a certified financial consultant.

"I had spent my last four offseasons as a player working with Merrill Lynch," Del Rio said. "I took all the tests you had to pass. I had a book of clients. That's what I was going to do."

Del Rio had played the 1995 season with the Minnesota Vikings, where Dungy was his defensive coordinator. Dungy became head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he wanted to take Del Rio with him as an assistant coach.

Instead, Del Rio gave it one more shot as a player, going to training camp with the Miami Dolphins. Beaten out at middle linebacker by a rookie named Zach Thomas, Del Rio decided he didn't want to hang on for a 12th NFL season as a backup.

"I probably helped him out a little more than I should have," Del Rio said with a grin.

The 1996 season played out with Del Rio dabbling as a financial adviser at his northern California home until Dungy called in January to say he was going to be in the neighborhood for the East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto.

"Are you happy?" Dungy asked Del Rio over lunch.

"Oh, it's great. I'm doing this stock broker thing," Del Rio said.

"No, really, are you happy?" Dungy said.

Merrill Lynch never had a chance. As Dungy's invited guest during the East-West practices, Del Rio was hired on by Mike Ditka with the New Orleans Saints.

Thus began a coaching career that eventually took Del Rio to the Broncos as a defensive coordinator in 2012. When head coach John Fox had open-heart surgery last week, Del Rio became his temporary replacement.