Aug. 17, 2000
BERKELEY - For Cal senior center Reed Diehl and his four-year-old son Preston, the phrase "Practice makes perfect" is a way of life.
Preston has watched his dad run through Memorial Stadium's north tunnel onto the field to the cheers of Cal fans on home game Saturdays the last three seasons. At his own home, Preston dons his miniature Cal jersey and helmet and runs down the hall into the family living room, insisting that his mom and 19-month-old sister Madison cheer him on. If dad's at home, he also is obligated to be part of the cheer section.
This ritual is not just once or twice, but for as much as an hour or longer, several times a day.
Preston's requirement for an appropriate crowd has been so substantial, that wife and mom Rachel actually made a videotape of herself announcing Preston's mock entrance into Memorial Stadium with the appropriate dose of applause. Now she can pop the tape in the VCR and return to cleaning duties while Preston perfects his entrance to the adoring mobs, time and time again.
It's all about work ethic.
Preston, though, has nothing on his dad, who takes his responsibilities as the leader of the Cal offensive line as seriously as he does his duties helping raise his young family.
A typical day during the season for the 6-4, 305-pounder begins around 6:30 a.m. when he has an hour to spend with the kids and allow Rachel some peace, before he gets in the car and heads for classes at Cal all morning.
Then he heads to his other classroom in offensive line coach Ed White's office in Memorial Stadium where he'll eat lunch and begin studying film of upcoming opponents.
After that, it's weight lifting, team meetings and a couple hours on the practice field. It's then a shower and training table dinner with the team.
Diehl's day isn't over , as he heads back into the film room to analyze practice tapes and opponent films. Finally, he heads home, arriving around 10:30 p.m. to kiss his sleeping kids and catch a few winks himself.
Thank goodness for Mondays when there is no practice and Diehl devotes the afternoon and night to the family.
Still, football takes up an enormous amount of time as Diehl estimates he'll average eight to nine hours a day in football-related activities.
Balancing football, family and classroom requirements has been an ambitious endeavor for Diehl at Cal, but he has managed all his obligations well. "My wife has been amazing," says Diehl. "With football and school, I'm not at the house as much as I'd like, but she makes everything work."
Another challenge has been supporting the family on a modest scholarship check and a small Pell Grant. Luckily, Diehl has the same financial instincts as his father, an investment banker in southern California. A few years ago, he took much of his savings and invested in E-Bay and other tech stocks. Many of the investments multiplied tenfold or more. Now, he's into less volatile equities and using the proceeds from his gains to help support the family.
Diehl is equally savvy on the football field. He will anchor Cal's offensive line from his center position, making all the calls at the line of scrimmage. Clearly, he's the right man for the job as he's played every position on the o-line, plus tight end, during his Cal career.
Diehl came to Cal from a highly successful Mater Dei HS program and was a scout team center his first year in 1996. The next season, the team needed a physical force at tight end and asked Diehl to fill that role. The next year, he settled in at right guard with a significant amount of playing time. Last season, he started all 11 games at either the left or right tackle positions.
Now he's returned full circle to his original center slot and his experiences at the other positions should pay major dividends. "I've played every place on the line, so I have a good understanding of how things should be done," says Diehl. "I'm thrilled to be back at center. It's like second nature to me. At center, you have so much control and I like having that responsibility."
One of only five fifth-year seniors on the Cal squad, Diehl takes his role as a leader on this year's team seriously. "I've taken a lot of time speaking to the offensive line as a group and individually so that they understand that our team is only going to go as far as the offensive line takes it," he said. "With four starters back and some real good young players, I believe we're going to have a great year. Offensive line play is all about communication and working together and I think our experience will be a huge factor this season."
Diehl also thinks the impact of Ed White will be evident this fall. "I feel so lucky to have Ed White as our coach," he says. "He's the best coach in the nation, pro or college, and he's a great person to talk to about other things. He cares about us as more than just players. Sometimes, when he calls my house he'll end up talking to my wife for 45 minutes before I even get on the phone. I just wish I was a freshman again so I could spend the next four to five years with him because he's building something special."
The thoughtful Cal senior thinks a new emphasis on the running game will help the Golden Bear offense. "We'll leave the play-calling up to the coaches, but with the talent we have in the backfield, we'll be able to move the ball on the ground. Besides, there's nothing like pancaking a defensive guy on a running play."
Eventually, Diehl plans to go to graduate school and earn a MBA in anticipation of a career in investment banking, perhaps with his dad. However, right now football is his main priority and he'll pursue a pro career, if given the chance. More importantly, he wants to leave Cal on a positive note. "I want to show people that we can put together a great season. We want to go to a bowl game, and not just any bowl. The Rose Bowl is what we're striving for. Washington State and Stanford proved it can be done in the last few years and now we have that type of opportunity."