David Diehl # 66 New York Giants†††††††††††††††††

There was a buzz in the Croatian Center St. Nikola Tavelic when friends told me a New York Giants player came one Sunday afternoon. Diehl is his name and he has a tattoo of GRB on his left arm. My curiosity wouldnít let me go so I called the Giants and on the last press day of the season, Christmas Eve, December 24, 2003 I found my way to the New York Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey. Before that I researched, as much as I could. Heís 6í5íí 315 lbs. 23 years old graduate of University of Illinois and grew up in Chicago area. Family of athletes. Perfect, Iím thinking - BIG SMART CROAT. As I walk past the guard and enter the locker room I see big men who just finished practice. Where is Dave Diehl I ask? One points me to a locker where I wait for a brief moment. Then a big kid comes over. ďCroatian ChronicleĒ I say and show him GRB (Croatian Crest). He grins, extends his hand and wants to know all about it. So we begin. 

Croatian Chronicle: Tell us about your first year in the pros, your rookie year?

Diehl: Great, not knowing what to expect, coming out of college as a fifth round draft pick from Illinois and for the first time in New York from Chicago I came with an open mind, wanting to prove myself to coaches and to my teammates to prove that I was a worthy draft pick. I feel Iíve accomplished a lot starting every game in the NFL, in fact playing every offensive down and to accomplish a dream of my entire life is just unbelievable. To do just that in such a great city as New York is such an unbelievable feeling.

Chronicle:Growing up which pro team were you rooting for?

Diehl: Chicago Bears, growing up on the southside of Chicago. Walter Payton and the championship 1985 Bears were special and the old-timers always mention Dick Butkus.

Chronicle: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make in coming to the pros - NFL?

Diehl: I think the biggest adjustment was the size of the players and their speed. Week in and week out going up against the guys who are 320 pounds to 330 pounds and move as fast as 250 pounds guys in college. Speed of game, these are 30 year old men with 7-8 years experience in the NFL. You prepare by studying the game film and anything else these players would throw at me.

Chronicle: Do you think youíve settled in your position as an offensive lineman or are you still working your way thru it?

Diehl: Iím the only player who started every game at the right guard. Iím really settled here, Iíve played every down. Iíd willing to play wherever coaches put me as long as Iím on the field.

Chronicle: What was your position in College?

Diehl: At the University of Illinois I played both offensive guard positions and at tackle, so itís not a big deal if I were to move within the offensive line. Iíll play whatever, as long as it helps our football team and helps us win games.

Chronicle: Any chance of seeing you at tight end catching some passes?

Diehl: No, thatís way out of the league, thatís been out of the league since my peeve days, so I donít think Iíll be doing that at 310 lbs.

Chronicle: Dave, you are Croatian American, tell us about your background?

Diehl: I grew up on the south side of Chicago. Iím fifty percent Croatian and fifty percent German. I went to grammar school and High School (Brother Rice) with some Croatian friends. So I have been following Croatian heritage ever since I can remember. Thatís why people couldnít figure out why I have Diehl as my last name and Croatian GRB tattooed on my left arm. I grew up going to St. Jeromeís Croatian Catholic Church with my Grandmother. Her maiden name was Semanic and she was from one of the Croatian islands. I remember going to St. Jeromeís and having palacinke for breakfast. My grandmother married Grandpa who was Ante Bekavac from small village Bekavci near Lovrec in Imotski, Dalmacija, Croatia. My father Jerry who passed away in August was hundred percent German on both sides.

Chronicle: Have you ever been to Europe or Croatia?

Diehl: No, I havenít. Iíd like to go in the off-season. My uncleís have houses by the sea; one has a house in Split.

Chronicle: What are you going to do in the off-season?

Diehl: Iíll go back to Chicago for a month, relax and be with family. Iím back in February to start working out for the new season. I have my mother Darlene, 2 older brothers Jerry and Jeff both married, one 3-year-old nephew whom I adore and both of my sisters in laws who are expecting. My girlfriend is a senior in college; weíve been dating for 4 years. I might take a short vacation to Cozumel, Mexico before I come back. When I do come back there will be a new coach and you have to get ready for him.

Chronicle: Where do you live?

Diehl: In Clifton, New Jersey townhouse, itís very close to Manhattan, a lot like Chicago.

In spare time with friends we go to the City with all of its attractions, sites, shows and restaurants. Often we are tired from games and practices so we donít have much time. We only have one day off in the week. I usually hang out with teammates Jeff Hatch an offensive tackle and quarterback Jesse Palmer. Palmer has a Croatian Canadian friends who when they saw my GRB wanted to know all about me.

Chronicle: With coach Fassel leaving whatís the mood like in the locker room?

Diehl: Itís been a tough season with lots of ups and downs; more downs this season. But one thing is that everyone has really worked hard this season with no blaming or pointing fingers regardless of the outcome we stayed together as a team and will try to finish on a high note.

Chronicle: Tell us about growing up with other Croatian American kids?

Diehl: Well, we used to go St. Jeromeís Church and Croatian Centar. It was hard for me because I was playing lots of time consuming sports and they were definitely a part of my life. But I remember those meetings in church or Centar, breakfast with other Croats from North side of Chicago everyone being Croatian and so together. Itís a great thing about being Croatian; family members that you donít even know get together with everyone so friendly and so outgoing.

Chronicle: How did GRB end up in your arm?

Diehl: As for the decision to put a GRB on my arm, I was at a friend's house when I spotted the GRB on their fridge. I really liked the design and decided to take it and put it on my arm. It was a little different design from the normal GRB I would see.

Chronicle: Dave, we like it just the way it is! Were you Cubs or White Sox fan?

Diehl: Once again growing up on Southside of Chicago I was a Sox fan. Next year Sox weíll do a lot better!

Chronicle: Before the draft did you have any special teams that you wanted to play for?

Diehl: It didnít matter; I just wanted a team that would give me the best opportunity. I like big cities, so here with the Giants I have the best of both worlds.

Chronicle: Dave, you visited Croatian Center in Manhattan on West 41st Street on your own. Any impressions?

David Diehl

Diehl: It was so quick but I wanted to do it. It reminded me of times in Chicago when I did things like go to the Croatian Cultural Centar for many different events. I played in a Croatian 3 on 3 Basketball tournament at the Centar. I also went to St. Jerome's for Velika Gospa. I went to Pittsburgh with my cousin Brendan and friend Tom. My aunt Mirna brought us there for a tambura concert. I also went to watch a basketball team from Split come and play some local colleges in the Chicago land area. On Christmas Eve my Uncle John Jurcev makes bakalar and other fish meals. I also attended many Croatian picnics and went to some soccer tournaments. I went to St. Jerome and Sacred Heart, which are both Croatian Catholic Churches.

Next year people will see a lot more of me in the community.

 

David Diehl, New York Giants, 2008, photo from CROWN

Several times during the interview we were interrupted by other Giants coming over and poking fun at Dave, indicating that # 66 is really liked and respected by his teammates.

 
Vedran Joseph Nazor, Croatian Chronicle, 9th January 2004


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