Fullback Chad Diehl: A player for any era


by - Senior Writer -
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Diehl’s blocking efforts will be front-and-center as there will be added emphasis on the running game this season. (Photos: Icon SMI)

CLEMSON – The Clemson Tigers were in the middle of a practice late last week, and defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, all 310 pounds of him, broke through the offensive line.

Fullback Chad Diehl saw a body coming through the hole, ran to step into the breach, and just before contact his brain registered the 99 on the front of the jersey, thought “uh oh” as he realized who was coming at him, and went into preservation mode.

Diehl, no lightweight at 255 pounds and a player who can bench press 450 pounds, said that he has a bad habit of leading with his head at times, and this time was no exception. The two players collided, facemask to facemask, and head coach Dabo Swinney said it “sounded like something exploded.”

Another player said his initial fear was that the two had killed each other. Turns out that the only injuries were to the facemasks, and Jenkins wound up with a concussion that kept him out of practice for a few days, but the play is indicative of the type of effect that Diehl has when he is on the football field.

The lead blocker on many of Clemson’s running plays, Diehl is capable of taking out defensive linemen, linebackers or cornerbacks, and with offensive coordinator Billy Napier saying there will be added emphasis on the running game this season, Diehl’s blocking efforts will be front-and-center.

However, Diehl said on Tuesday that he would rather save the big hits for opponents, not his teammates.

“I guess against my teammates, I’m just out there doing my job, but as far as like going against other teams it’s full speed,” he said following the Tigers’ scrimmage in Death Valley. “Out here with our guys it’s more like just a job. Jarvis Jenkins, like last week, just popped up in the hole and when I see a big body like that, all I can do is brace myself. I guess I just do my job and embrace it against other opponents.”

Diehl said that the collision was just happenstance, and he would never set out to hurt a teammate.

“One bad habit I have is kind of leading with my head,” he said. “I make sure I keep my facemask up though. As far as the hit, I guess, my facemask kinda hit his facemask. It was right after he got off a block and I guess he kinda didn’t see me, so it just popped his neck back a little bit. I guess it got him.”

It has been said that members of the Clemson defense don’t want any part of Diehl during PAW drills, but Diehl said he doesn’t pay any attention to that, and instead saves his attention for Clemson opponents.

“I’m known for being humble, so it’s kinda more embarrassing more than pride,” Diehl said of the attention. “Especially with my teammates I don’t like being labeled as, I guess, the big bully or a guy like that. As far as other teams - I guess if they feel that way about it then they do. But on game day we love for anybody on the team to have that kind of attitude, that kind of physical mentality.”

ESPN called Diehl the Unsung Hero of the Game following Clemson’s win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, as Diehl paved the way for two touchdown runs. The one block that got the most attention was his blasting of Kentucky safety Calvin Harrison on Jamie Harper’s one-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

Harrison had started out the game talking, even telling Clemson senior tight end Michael Palmer before the game’s first play, that “the SEC is about to kick your a*#,” and Diehl said enough was simply enough.
If you get a chance to watch the video, you can see that Diehl simply blasts Harrison onto his backside, and Diehl ran through the play for TigerNet.

[Note: Fast forward to the 3:12 mark to see the block. Analyst Matt Millen calls Diehl the “Big Diehl” and says that Chad put Harrison “on his rear end.”]

“Well, first off No. 33, I won’t say any names but No. 33 for Kentucky, was running his mouth the whole game,” Diehl said. “So on this play I can either go for the linebacker first or let the guard get the linebacker and go up for the safety. Since he had a mouth on him, I guess I remember going for him first. The result, everybody knows that. I always try not to say anything, but since he was saying stuff first, I possibly could’ve said a little bit to him.”

Diehl said that he was looking forward to the season, and not just because people are saying that Clemson could run the football more, but simply because he came to Clemson to help the Tigers win.

“I’m really looking forward to this season, but as far as coming here, you know however I can help the team out, you know that’s what everybody on the team should come here to do,” he said. “So, I want to help out as much as I can. As far as being a running offense, we’ve also got 2 great quarterbacks, we’ve got around 10 great receivers that can all possibly start. So, I look at it more so having a balanced offense, but if we run the football then I’m all for it.”

I asked Diehl if was one of those physical football players that gets into the zone, or acts wild before a game, and he said he was actually the opposite – until it’s time to run a play.
“Well, I never really get psyched up like at the top of the hill or banging my head around in the locker room like some guys,” he said. “I try to stay calm, and I guess I’m competitive one-on-one, so when a play is called and I know I’m competing with a linebacker filling the hole, I just get this extra adrenaline I guess. I just hate to lose against a linebacker. I guess I stay calm and when a play is called, I turn my motor up a little bit.”

Swinney says that Diehl could have played in any era.

“Chad is the ultimate football player,” Swinney said. “He could play on any team, anywhere, in any era, from the 1940’s to 2010. He is just the epitome of what you look for. He is extremely strong, has a great body, and gives you everything he’s got. He has that explosive power, which is rare, very rare. His toughness is just incredible.”

Swinney said that Diehl reminds him of former University of Alabama tight end Patrick Hape, who played nine years in the NFL.

“Patrick is who I compare Chad to the most,” he said. “He doesn’t know who Patrick was, but Patrick wasn’t the greatest athlete, ran a 5-flat [40-yard dash], but he was a nightmare for whoever lined up over him. He had that unique ability to be explosive though his hips on contact, and Chad has that.”

Swinney then smiled, and talked about the collision between Diehl and Jenkins again.

“That hit was heard all over campus, I can guarantee you that,” he said. “But then again, most of Chad’s hits are like that.”

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