No matter what sport you follow, it’s safe to say that any athlete that spends their whole career with one team and a successful team at that, must have something about them. Athletes and ones with such success can often have all the trappings that go with it, from entourages to egos and arrogance.
When I met David Diehl for this interview he introduced himself with an outstretched hand the size of a shovel and said, “Hi, I’m David, how are you?” A man of his stature does not need to introduce himself and yet he did so because he doesn’t assume the world knows him or his successes and because he holds onto the values he has lived with his whole career. This interaction only confirmed so much of what I have read and heard about him on and off the field.
David Diehl is a x2 Superbowl Champion, Pro Bowler and veteran of 11 seasons with the New York Giants. At 6’5” and 300 lbs he is a giant of the game in> every way, matched only by his personality. As we talk it is very clear that there are firm values at the foundation to everything for David - family, belonging and commitment to the team - not the money.
Athletes talk of the success they have had, the monetary gains and what they achieved - and although he acknowledged his achievements when we first started talking, what was interesting was that it was only a couple of sentences in the whole conversation and that it came with a large caveat. “I worked hard all my life to accomplish it,” David explained to me of how he has achieved what he has done. The way he said it made you feel that he was still living with the emotion of the effort it took. David doesn’t want anyone to think it just happens and that if you are a natural you don’t need to do anything - no. You need to work HARD, as he said. I like this because there is no arrogance to it, just a deep-rooted sense of old-fashioned values and reality.
In speaking of values and of what ties a player to one team for his whole career, David is very clear: “I’m an old-school guy who believes in loyalty and a man being of his word,” he explained to me of his world view - and that has given him the reputation he has. Pretty much anything you hear, read or find about David is complimentary and talks of his character. On retiring, his coach Tom Coughlin said, “When I think of David Diehl what comes to mind is his indomitable spirit…..he got the most out of his God-given ability and that’s the best way that you can judge any individual. He took the talent that he had and he used it to the extreme, to the utmost of his ability.”
David worked hard and was loyal - but all because, as he explained, a team, the New York Giants, chose him and believed in him and it’s this belief, trust and relationship that saw him become the player that he was and allowed him to provide them with unswerving loyalty.
But surely it’s about more than that? For as David expanded, it was “….about friendships and a brotherhood, all things I will have for life”. This is the key then; it is about the here and now when you are training and playing with team mates and having a genuine connection - but it’s also about gaining something with them and in your own character that outlasts the short time you have as an athlete.
David has a band of brothers and experiences that are steeped in his values - ‘old school’ as he called them - that make him not only a remarkable athlete but a role model for every athlete who wants to be successful but still have a soul. And if they are lucky, then like David at the end of their career you can find nothing but praise for the athlete and the person.
It was an absolute privilege to spend time with David, to hear him talk so passionately about his values and to see for myself why he is who he is.