I wanted to offer a note of congratulations to Kris Dielman, a Troy High School graduate (like myself) who got his first NFL start on Sunday. He started, and played the whole game, at left guard for the San Diego Chargers, who defeated the visiting New York Giants 45-23. I got the watch the whole game, courtesy of ESPN, and I'm happy to say that Kris played very well. He didn't commit any penalties or give up any sacks, and he helped block for tailback LaDainian Tomlinson's 192-yard, 3-touchdown night.
I don't know Kris personally, but I always enjoyed watching him play both football and basketball in his days at Troy. He's a great competitor, a guy that you know is going to give everything he's got. He's always the first guy to congratulate a teammate or pick him up off the ground, the first guy to stick his nose into a confrontation. When he plays in televised games, he's on-screen all the time as he's always around the ball or near the coach when he's on the sidelines.
I always try to follow guys from Troy when their athletic careers carry them forward into college and occasionally beyond. Kris has been an interesting case; he's definitely earned his success. At Troy, he played tight end his first two years on the varsity, then also took up the position of linebacker for his senior year. It was his play at linebacker that got him recruited to play college football and earned a scholarship offer from Indiana University. Unfortunately, Kris's dad (who I met and talked to at several Troy football games) passed away during Kris's senior year of high school. His future coaches at Indiana came to the funeral. Since it wasn't yet February and Kris hadn't signed a letter of intent, this was considered by the NCAA to be a recruiting violation, and Kris was declared ineligible to play there before he had even set foot on campus. Luckily, the NCAA displayed a rare case of sense and sensitivity and reversed the ruling quickly, before it could have an effect on his actual playing career.
Kris was recruited by Indiana as a linebacker, but he never played that position for the Hoosiers. He saw time as a true freshman at tight end, and his sophomore season he became a rare Division I college players to play both offense and defense as he played both tight end and defensive tackle. His junior year, he played exclusively at tight end, and was given Honorable Mention on the all-Big Ten team. He moved exclusively to defensive tackle for his senior year, and was named Honorable Mention on the all-Big Ten team at that position as well. He wasn't drafted in the NFL draft following that season, due partially (if I remember correctly) to being injured at pre-draft camps. He did get a shot, however, signing as a free agent defensive tackle with the Chargers. He didn't make the final roster cutdowns that season, but the Chargers brought him back, signing him to their practice squad as an offensive guard, a position he had never played. That's the position he played on Sunday night.
This may or may not be temporary. He got the start due to an injury to the regular starting guard, Toniu Fonoti, and may again be relegated to the sidelines when Fonoti is ready to play, which may be this weekend. However, I read somewhere (I can't find the link again) that the Chargers' head coach Marty Schottenheimer refused to rule out keeping Kris in the starting role. One way or another, he played well enough on Sunday night to ensure himself of increased playing time. Whether that continues from now or comes somewhere down the line remains to be seen.