David Diehl # 66 New York Giants
Croatian Among 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. ďIím CroatianĒ I say and show him my GRB
(Croatian Crest). He grins, extends his hand and wants to
know all about it. So we begin.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Beckavac 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 Semanic and from Dalmacija. My father Jerry
who passed away in August was hundred percent German on both sides.
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.
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, 2 older brothers both
married, one 3-year-old nephew whom I adore. I might take a
short vacation before I come back. When I do come back
there will be a new coach and you have to get ready for him.
Where do you live?
Diehl: In North 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
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.
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
How did GRB end up on 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.
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!
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.
Dave, you visited Croatian Center in Manhattan on West 41st
Street on your own. Any impressions?
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.
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.