MOUNT GREENWOOD — Dave Diehl's Pro Bowl jersey hangs near the trophy case at Brother Rice High School. The recently retired NFL offensive lineman returned to his alma mater on Monday to help coach the Crusaders' youth football camp.
"I was once in the exact same position as them. I came to these same camps," said Diehl, who wore No. 66 for 11 seasons with the New York Giants.
Years before the 2003 NFL draft, Diehl was a ball boy for the Crusaders. Head football coach Brian Badke remembers seeing Diehl on the sideline while he was playing at Brother Rice.
"It's awesome for these kids to see someone from the neighborhood who has come out of this program and had great success," said Badke, who graduated from the school at 10001 S. Pulaski Road in 1992.
Diehl, a native of Gage Park, played his entire career with the New York Giants. He was on Super Bowl-winning teams in 2012 and 2008. Diehl was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2009.
Diehl was a fifth round draft choice of the Giants after playing for the University of Illinois. Considering his draft position, a lengthy NFL career wasn't necessarily a given. He said the lessons he learned at Brother Rice helped him achieve this goal.
"I learned you have to come out and punch the clock each and every day," Diehl said.
Diehl retired in January. He continues to live in New York with his 7-year-old daughter, Addison. He plans to stay there to keep her at the same school and make it easier for his post-football career. Diehl said he recently signed on as an NFL analyst with Fox Sports.
He said he feels blessed to have landed the job as well as having emerged from an 11-season NFL career without ever having a concussion. Though his playing days required two surgeries on his hand and one on his knee, Diehl said while pointing to his scars.
"For playing in the NFL trenches, that's not bad," he said.
Jim Lynch, 13, of Morgan Park, is entering eighth grade in the fall. He plays on both the offensive and defensive line for St. Cajetan School. He hopes to play football in high school and enrolled in the camp to check out Brother Rice and improve his game.
"I thought it was cool to see an actual NFL player," Lynch said.
Jack McMahon, 14, of southwest suburban Orland Park, asked Diehl about the strength required to bounce back from a tough game during a question-and-answer session.
"Sometimes I get down after a loss, and I appreciated what he had to say about getting back up," McMahon said.
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