With the Denver Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning set to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, few people can offer the perspective of Ryan Diem. A former teammate of Manning, the Glenbard North graduate played 11 seasons in the NFL as a member of the Indianapolis Colts before retiring in 2011.
Still living in Indianapolis with his family, the former offensive lineman is now involved with a couple of different businesses, primarily a software company called CloudOne. Diem and his family return to the Chicagoland area every year for the Ryan Diem's Allie & Friends Golf Classic. In nine years, the event has raised more than one million dollars for neuroblastoma cancer research.
Diem talked with Suburban Life sports reporter Scott Schmid about Manning and his own career.
Schmid: What was it like to play alongside and block for Peyton Manning?
Diem: From a team perspective, you appreciate what the guy is about and the work that he puts in. He is constantly watching film and the homework he does and the time he puts in, you appreciate that as a teammate. Physically, he is pretty darn good and mentally, he is super sharp. He will go down as one of the greatest all time, and it was very special to be able to block for him. That's something I will cherish forever.
Schmid: What's Peyton like on and off the field?
Diem: All things considered, for a guy with that much exposure, he is a normal guy who likes to kick back with a Bud Light and hang out. And he is kind of a prankster in the lockerroom; we used to have a lot of fun in the lockerroom. He is a family man who likes to hang out a little bit on the side. And he has a passion for football. He lives and eats football.
Schmid: Are you rooting for the Broncos in the Super Bowl?
Diem: A lot of people ask me who I root for and I always say that I pull for my friends. Guys I played with, I'm always happy to see them go to other places and do well. Peyton is having an incredible season. His legacy is pretty much in place, but this would be the icing on the cake if he is able to get another ring. And I hope he does.
Schmid: What do you miss, if anything, about playing football?
Diem: I was unbelievably blessed to have such a great run. So many guys only get a couple of years in and get taken out by injury or a GM that tells them they are not good enough. I was really blessed to be a part of such a great group of guys who stayed together for so long and had success. That's what you miss, your friends, the lockerroom atmosphere, the competition. But to play 11 years, physically I was ready to be done. And mentally, it's a challenge. I had been playing since I was eight years old; I had played 25 consecutive seasons and that's all I knew. To have an open schedule was refreshing.
Schmid: How proud are you of what you were able to accomplish with the Colts?
Diem: The offensive line is really a team within a team. We had a great group of guys and we had guys that were mainstays. On the offensive line, you have to have guys who are on the same page consistently. And for us to have that continuity for so long was special.
Schmid: How did playing at Glenbard North and in the DVC prepare you for future levels?
Diem: When you are playing in the top conference in the state, facing the best competition can only prepare you for the next level. Look at this past season with Justin Jackson, facing that kind of competition week in and week out can only make him better next year at Northwestern.
Favorite stadium to play in: Getting to play in Soldier Field was special to me ... and one of my favorite stadiums to play in, with the whole atmosphere, was Green Bay.
Most memorable moment: The AFC championship beating the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl. That was my favorite game of all-time.
Toughest defensive opponents: Early on, I remember facing Jevon Kearse. And I practiced against two of the best all-time in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Going against our defense every day made you better.
Hobbies outside of football: I always enjoyed skiing and I wasn't able to do that in college or the pros, so I'm trying to take that back up. And in the summertime, I like to play golf.