The block-first tight end is all but extinct in today’s run-and-gun NFL, but Ken Dilger one of the greats of a generation gone by, who lives on in the annals of Obscure Athletedom. He’s a man I’ll always remember because he was part of another awesome endangered species: dudes in the NFL who wore neck rolls.
Ken Dilger was the second-round pick by the Colts in 1995, out of the University of Illinois where he earned second-team All-Big 10 honors as a senior. His best season as a pass-catcher actually came in his 1995 rookie season, when he caught 42 passes for 635 yards. Three different quarterbacks threw Dilger passes that year, but mostly it was Pro-Bowl quarterback and future nutbag coach Jim Harbaugh.
Dilger established himself as one of the toughest guys in the league. In seven seasons for the Colts, he missed just three games, playing through myriad injuries. By the time Dilger made the Pro Bowl for the first and only time in 2001, however, Indianapolis decided to move on at the Tight End spot, opting to give Marcus Pollard an extension and cut Dilger.
Ken was not done in the league, however. Jon Gruden brought Dilger to Tampa Bay in his first season as Buccaneers head coach. And less than a year after finding out his longtime Colts team wanted nothing to do with him, Dilger was raising the Lombardi Trophy as a member of the 2002 Super Bowl Champion Bucs team. He would play two more seasons in Tampa Bay before retiring at age 33.
In total, Dilger caught 356 NFL passes, and scored 24 touchdowns as a receiver. He also threw one pass, a 39-yard touchdown to Marvin Harrison in the fourth quarter of a 23-22 Colts’ victory over the Jets. He retired with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The guy did it all, whether it showed up on the stat sheet or not. A tip of the hat to the great Ken Dilger!