Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Joe Dineen has a favorite player of all time.
Though he is donning the jersey number of all-time linebacker stud Randy Gradishar, the KU inside backer actually played QB growing up.
So of course it’s Peyton Manning.
And that means the Lawrence, Kansas, native jumped right on the Broncos bandwagon when Manning became a Bronco in 2012, and he was particularly happy about that Super Bowl win in 2016 (as were we all).
Finally on the football field.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) May 10, 2019
It’s time to work, rookies. pic.twitter.com/kzQ5a08pHE
But we’re going to have to forgive Dineen one transgression - he jumped on the Chiefs bandwagon last year.
“But not anymore, not anymore,” he pleads with First and 10 @ 10’s Andrew Mason. “I’m just really fired up to be here. I’ve always loved Colorado, love the mountains. It’s paradise. Broncos Country is paradise.”
OK, we can probably forgive last year. After all, Broncos didn’t have much to offer a guy playing college ball just 50 miles outside of Kansas City - and the Chiefs certainly did.
But the more important part of Dineen’s story is that he hopes to follow the undrafted path that fellow Jayhawks’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. did and prove to coaches he is worthy of a spot on the team.
And his attitude about playing will be a good start.
“I think there’s one way to play football - as hard as you can no matter what the score is,” Dineen said, adding that his parents instilled a ‘don’t quit’ mentality in him at a young age. “That’s how I do everything. The score wasn’t going to change my effort.”
It’s a mentality that will also serve him well as he goes up against some of the best of the best in the NFL - even if it’s just against rookies.
Noah Fant, for example, is a beast to cover, Dineen admitted when Andrew Mason asked if he had been assigned to cover the first-round pick during the Rookie Minicamp over the weekend.
“I was. I was. He’s fast. A big athletic kid too. I’m excited he’s a Bronco,” Dineen joked. “He’s a freak athlete, and he’s going to be real good.”
But Dineen likes that because he knows it will be the best way to help him improve on coverage - which he considers the main thing a linebacker needs to be good at if he wants to see the field. “Oh yeah, oh yeah. You’re not going to see a ton of guys like [Fant],” Dineen added. “Obviously the Chiefs have got a good one, but I’m really excited I’m going against him in practice and not in a game.”
Joe Dineen, an undrafted LB out of Kansas, on @ChrisHarrisJr, the Broncos' undrafted Pro Bowl CB out of Kansas: pic.twitter.com/luPc2j9MBl— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) May 13, 2019
The first two days of the rookie minicamp got linebackers coach Reggie Herring fired up at his new guys trying to learn the scheme - but by the third day, he was complimenting the young crew.
“Reggie is a great coach. You have to listen to what he says and not worry about how he says it,” Dineen laughed. “He’s a great guy and a great football coach. I’ve already learned a lot from him. ...He’s done a great job installing the defense, and we’re finally understanding it.”
Dineen particularly likes that the defense isn’t set in one gap but can move around based on reading the running back.
“I really like that. I think when you’re just in a gap scheme, it kind of handicaps your skill set,” he said. “I think being able to flow off the back will help me.”
Dineen is looking to improve in his coverage ability, but mostly he’s concentrating on really understanding the defense.
“In the NFL, to be a linebacker on the field at all times, you’ve got to be able to cover. To get to where I’m really confident out there, there are always tricks I can learn,” he said. “And honestly, just learning the defense, I think I’ll be OK. Got to get on all four special teams and work really hard there and make it hard for coaches to not leave me on the team.”
For one thing, Dineen really wants to be in Vic Fangio’s defense.
“Good coach. Smart. He’s quiet, but when he talks you listen for sure,” Dineen said. “His defense is what he’s known for, so I’m excited to be in that system and learn from him.”
For another, he’d really like to meet his all-time favorite player.
“I’d have to get some courage and go shake his hand,” Dineen said, adding that as a kid he had a room full of Manning memorabilia, including a wall-size Fathead™ and several autographed items. “That’d be a pretty cool experience.”