As Kevin Acee so eloquently wrote in today’s edition of the Union-Tribune, Chargers left guard Kris Dielman is a nasty, ferocious player who sincerely loves the game of football. He hits. HARD. He has a foul mouth and fire in his eyes when he takes the field. He won’t let the team’s equipment managers touch up his helmet between games because he likes to show off the scuff marks from collisions.
And he is one of the nicest players I’ve ever met.
Now he is retiring, forced to trade in football for a future with his family after suffering a concussion in October while playing against the New York Jets. The concussion was later followed by a seizure, then by a spot on the Injured Reserve list before arriving here, to retirement, after consulting with many doctors about how much more his body — more appropriately, his brain — can take.
Kris is a deceiving man. The guy looks like someone who would kill your cat — and if your cat ran across the football field during a game, he probably would — but off the field, he is kind, funny and the sort of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it or fix your tire if it was flat. Kris and I didn’t talk much my first year on the beat (like most of the offensive line, he’s not really a “video” guy) but over the last few years, we chatted about everything from our love of East County dive bars to NASCAR to his desire for privacy to his father, who served in the Army.
But what I liked MOST about Kris was his honesty and sincerity.
Here’s the thing — When I ask an athlete to be part of a video story or interview, they usually respond in one of four ways:
- They say “Yes” and they follow through;
- They say “Yes” but they mean “No” and spend the rest of the season trying to hide from you and/or barely talk to you;
- They say “No” and spend the rest of the season trying to hide from you and/or barely talk to you so you don’t ask for more stuff;
- They say “No” and still treat you like you are human. They OWN the “No” but respect that you’re doing your job.
The first and last category are the most rare, but that’s where Kris fits, as does his buddy Nick Hardwick. Kris and Nick would turn me down 9 out of 10 times, but they would always own it. They would look me in the eye and say they aren’t up to doing an interview today, or give a simple: “No thank you, Annie … but how are you?” and the next day, they would treat me exactly the same as they did the day before — with respect. They never wavered. Don’t misunderstand me: Both say “Yes” to plenty of interviews and media requests (mine included), but it’s just that they say “No” with grace. Neither plays any games with the media. What you see is what you get. Kris could turn me down for an interview Monday, but Tuesday he and I would shoot the breeze and there would be no hard feelings, ever. I always knew I could go to him with a question and he would give me unbridled honesty.
Gonna miss that guy. Actually, in honor of Kris and his ability to drop more F-bombs in one sentence than humanely possible:
Gonna miss that f**king guy.
The NFL Combine is madness. It is not for the weary.
As media, you basically get there early with a hundred other media peeps, fight for a spot with a decent outlet for your laptop, get some coffee, complain about something or other, then laugh about how times have changed. Then it’s a whole day of hustle, baby.
Because the NFL doesn’t provide media with times or podiums for the player pressers, it’s a lot of scrambling. A player comes into the media room and all the reporters and TV people crowd around, frantically fighting for space for their tripod or proximity to ask a question. Then another player comes in at another podium, and everyone scrambles to get over to him.
Then there might be two hours when you do NOTHING.
And then another five when you don’t sit down.
Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
At the Combine, you have to cut your losses. You’re not going to get everyone. There will undoubtedly be two or three players talking to media at same time, and you’re gonna have to pick one. There will definitely be other media trying to sneak a player away from you to do an interview before the NFL Security People whisk him away. It’s a dog-eat-dog world around here.