Ryan Diem spent 11 seasons protecting Peyton Manning.
Next week, Diem will be able to spend his Sunday evening cheering for Manning. Both players helped the Indianapolis Colts to win Super Bowl XLI against the Bears, and now the retired offensive tackle hopes to see his old teammate win ring No. 2.
Life after football has been busy for Diem, who grew up in Carol Stream and played at Northern Illinois before the Colts made him a fourth-round draft pick in 2001. Diem has launched a start-up tech company called CloudOne, and he is involved in several charities, including the Allie & Friends Golf Classic in Lake in the Hills.
To learn more about Allie & Friends, which has raised more than $1 million in its first nine years to fight pediatric cancer, visit www.allieandfriends.org. This year’s 10th anniversary tournament will be May 5 at Boulder Ridge Country Club.
Diem spoke this week about his old quarterback and Super Bowl mania.
What one word best describes Peyton Manning?
Everything that he does is measured and calculated and studied and researched and thought through, very thoroughly. It’s just precision, you know? Perfect.
Was it ever to the point where his perfectionism got on your nerves?
(laughs) Only when we were in our stance for 30 seconds, as the play clock is running down, our legs are starting to burn, and he’s still trying to make some changes out there. But, no, you’ve got to appreciate a guy that puts that kind of effort into everything he does, especially on the football field when he’s steering the ship back there. He was second to none as far as the study and time he puts into his craft.
Constantly, he’s watching film. It’s always – road trips, on the plane, some guys are watching movies. He wouldn’t even consider it. He’s watching film and he’s studying and he’s asking guys questions, trying to find any little angle where he can take advantage of a weakness in a defense.
So when you’re down in that stance while he’s calling audibles or fake audibles, what burns the most, your quads?
The quads burn. Amongst ourselves on the offensive line, we kind of make our own joke calls. ‘Check leg burn!’ ‘Check quads on fire!’ Just goofing around.
The reality is you appreciate what he’s doing back there because he’s got a lot of information to process. He gets you in the right situation at the right time. It’s key.
As an offensive lineman, you’re noticed basically only if you mess up. And if you mess up, the face of the franchise is going to get hit. Was it ever stressful to step back and realize that your job was to protect Peyton Manning?
There is certainly a lot of pressure. That’s our role, though. As an offensive lineman, you know that going in. You know that you’re not going to be featured on the top 10 plays on SportsCenter. You’re not going to have big stories written about you on the cover of Sports Illustrated. …
Like you said, you’re protecting the franchise back there. There is a lot of stress that comes with that, but with repetition and preparation, you’re ready for it.
Accidents happen. Sometimes you make mistakes and the quarterback’s going to take a hit once in awhile. But I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping him clean and upright. Certainly, it’s still paying off for him. He’s still playing in his prime here, and what are we at, year 17, 18?
But to your point about offensive linemen getting recognized for making mistakes, I would get a call from my grandmother after games sometimes, and she’d be like, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV! A face shot, up close!’ That was never a good thing. (laughs)
You played in two Super Bowls. Describe Super Bowl week from a player’s perspective. What’s the biggest distraction you have to battle?
I think the biggest distraction is definitely media day. It’s just a circus. Have you been down there for that?
No, but we’ll have someone there this year. I think it drives the legitimate football reporters as crazy as it drives the players.
Oh, yeah. Because it’s more about the late-night talk show guys and their people, and just non-sports people that are there to make a scene and try to create news. It’s fun, but it’s kind of like, OK, I just want to get to the game.
You’re down there all week. You’re trying to stick to the normal routine of what your normal work week is like during the season, except you’re transplanted down to a different location, you’re living out of a hotel, your family is there, sort of, in and out, so you get to see them a little bit.
It’s just really a challenge to move the whole operation to a different location and stick to the same routine because you’ve got to be bused around everywhere, you’re in a different facility. All of that stuff, you’ve got to kind of put aside.
After a Super Bowl practice, could you even go out to dinner or was it too crazy?
You’re kind of separated from all of that. When we were in Miami, we were staying in Fort Lauderdale at a nice resort right on the beach. It was a nice bonus, but again, somewhat of a distraction. … You could go out and grab dinner with your family or a couple of the guys, but for the most part, you’re holed up in that hotel. You’ve got meetings. They keep you really busy. There’s not a chance to really get out and get in trouble.
Do you think this Super Bowl will help define Peyton Manning’s legacy, or is that something that already has been set?
It certainly could add to it. I think had he retired after his neck injury and decided not to come back, I think he’d have a great legacy and a great story. Everything he’s done since that has been icing on the cake. It’s just added to his story.
It’s been said several times and written all the time, there’s this monkey on his back about the playoffs and ‘Peyton versus Brady’ and all that stuff. Well, he’s not playing against Tom Brady. He’s playing against the Patriots defense. They’re good, and [Bill] Belichick is an excellent game planner.
The fact of the matter is that Peyton’s legacy is set, man. He’s the greatest of all time. He might not have all the rings as some other people, but that’s a team thing. I mean, I’m not saying we weren’t a good enough team to do it, but that particular day, that particular situation, it just didn’t work.
But I think he’ll go down as the greatest of all time. No question.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.