Chris Dishman was an offensive guard at Nebraska and lettered four years from 1993-1996. He went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals from 1997 through 2003. He just came out of retirement and is currently on the roster with the St. Louis Rams. This interview was done on August 20, 2004 by David Max. More information about his NFL career can be found here.
DM Where are you from originally?
CD I was born in Gothenberg, NE and grew up in Cozad and graduated from Cozad High School.
DM Who recruited you to Nebraska?
CD Milt Tenopir did. Coach Tenopir came out and recruited me and saw me play in a couple of games when I was a junior and I went to their camps. I remember when Tom Osborne came out to Cozad they flew into the Cozad airport and my grandmother was so excited to see Tom Osborne in Cozad. I went to school with Brendan Holbein who went on to be a three year starter at wingback for us. Coach Osborne came in to see both of us.
DM Who else were you recruited by?
CD I had offers from Kansas State and Iowa State. I had a visit planned to Michigan and to Kansas State but I cancelled them once I found out I could go to Nebraska. I wasn't going to waste their money because there is nothing they could have said to change my mind.
DM Did you make an actual recruiting trip to Nebraska or did you decide when Coach Osborne came to Cozad?
CD I accepted my scholarship before my recruiting trip and I went on the trip after I accepted. They offered the scholarship while I was playing during my senior year. I kind of waited hoping that they would offer Brendan one too so we would be a package deal. I wanted the recruiting to stop. I was talking on the phone every night and I wanted that to end. I knew in my heart that I was going to go there whenever they offered a scholarship. There was no question in my mind.
DM What was your recruiting trip like to Nebraska?
CD It was fun. Wayne Meylan, Jr. was one of the guys that took me out. We went to a Missouri basketball game and just hung out together. Unfortunately, it was the same weekend that Scott Baldwin injured himself when he was going through the bi-polar disorder. It was kind of weird because we were supposed to meet with Coach Osborne and he had to leave because of what was going on with Scott. We didn't really know at the time what was happening.
DM What was Wayne Meylan, Jr. like?
CD I liked Wayne. He later transferred out. I think he went to Wyoming and finished his career. We talked about his father and stuff. His dad was a four time All American and "All World". I looked up to those guys as a role model.
DM What were the practices like?
CD The practices were good. They were very intense. We practiced everything on the field. The stations were 32 plays long and we had four stations. We did a lot of repetitions. Game days were a lot easier than practice. Game days were days when you go out there and have fun. The coaches got us really prepared. We didn't watch a lot of game film on the other team. Coach Tenopir said the best people we are going to play against are the ones that we play against every day in practice. Playing against Christian, Jason, Grant Jared, Trev Alberts and those guys when I was younger. It's so true. We played against the best players in the nation every day in practice. We really didn't look at much film of other teams which was kind of weird now that I have been in pro ball and that's all we do is watch film of other teams.
DM Who was your position coach and what was he like?
CD Milt Tenopir and Dan Young. Milt was so like a father figure to all of us. He wasn't a yeller or anything like that but you never wanted to disappoint him. You put him up there on that pedestal kind of like Tom Osborne. You didn't want to disappoint the guy because it was like disappointing your father. He treated us all so equal and he was such a great guy to be around. Even now when I go back I love to talk to Coach Tenopir. He is probably one of the greatest coaches that I've ever been coached under. He taught me a lot about attitude and just life in general. I give a lot of credit for my pro career to Coach Tenopir and Coach Young. They helped me get to where I am today. My family is really thankful for them. My wife and kids realize that without them I wouldn't be able to play professional football.
DM Do you have any teammate stories about some of the other linemen?
CD There are some stories but I don't know if we can print them. (Laughs)
DM Is there a particular regular season game that sticks out in your memory?
CD My Junior year when we played Arizona State. The reason I remember that game was because it was the first time that I got knocked out during a game. I remember coming around the corner during an option play and I was trying to wrap around and get the linebacker. Virgil Friedman, they called him "Fright Night", from Arizona State came in (and I never wore a moutDMiece in college) from the safety position and put his helmet right into my chin. I was laying on the ground and I think the play went for 28 or 30 yards. The next play we ended up scoring. I remember getting up and Aaron Taylor came up to me and said "Dish, what's the matter?" I said "I think I got knocked out." I spit out a broken tooth and I was so fuzzy. Aaron walked me out on the next play and got me into my stance and we scored on the next play. I don't even remember that play. That was the first time I really got nailed.
DM Do you have any "in the huddle" memories?
CD Everybody thinks that huddles are so big and everything is rah rah. Most of the time we're talking about the cheerleaders or something else going on. Offense is so much different that defense. Defense you need to be so much out of control but on offense it is a control craziness. You have to be technically sound on every play. Your footwork has to be good and everybody has to be one unit for the whole thing to work. Most of the time we were talking about the furtherest thing away from football that you can imagine. There would be 70-80,000 people there and we would be talking about where we're going for dinner after the game. You always have to take yourself out of it. When Tommie Frazier would call the play then that was the switch to turn it back on. There are so many things like that that people don't know about. There did come the point when you just had to play football and I think that is what we did really well. We didn't take crap from anybody. That was the attitude that Tommie Frazier set as quarterback. You hear about how he wasn't team oriented because he didn't hang out with the guys but I wouldn't have anybody else back there as the quarterback. He knew how to put it in the end zone and I loved blocking for him. His drive was the same as all of us offensive linemen's drive. He wanted to score every single play. When you have a quarterback like that and running backs like Lawrence and Ahman and those guys it made our job so much easier. It made us look good but those guys did all the work too. It was a team effort and we did really well in there.
DM Do you have a favorite Tom Osborne story?
CD My favorite Tom Osborne story is the '94 Miami game. Everybody has seen that video tape of the Miami game when he's talking about how they're going to get gassed and we're going to just keep fighting. Just keep sawing wood and running at them and running at them and that's what we're going to do. I remember in that game thinking that they were flying around in that first half and it seemed like they had so much energy. He saw that they were dying and he knew when it was time to put the dagger in the heart and seal the deal. After that game it was really weird how everything happened in that third and fourth quarter just like he said it would. I remember that half time speech so clearly in my mind.
DM What was it like after you won the 1994 National Championship game against Miami?
CD That was a great time because for so long everybody said that we couldn't win a bowl game or an important game. The year before we lost to Florida State when the kick went wide at the end and we had that touchdown called back. It was a big relief off Coach Osborne's back and off the team's back. We came out there and played Nebraska football. We hit them in the face and let them fold. It was like a heavyweight bout. We kept hitting them and hitting them and finally they fell. It was a great night in my life. I will never forget that.
Back at the team hotel it was a little out of control because none of us really knew how to act. We had just become National Champions and everything that we worked for came to a head. It just released. It was a great party and a great time. I was a sophomore at the time and I hung out with some of the older guys like Weigert, Zatacha, and Brendan Stai. It was kind of a blur because we partied through the whole night and I missed the plane back to Nebraska. I had to jump on the plane with the band. Jeff Ogard and I were roommates and they said that we would be leaving at 9 AM. I thought they said that the bus was leaving the hotel at 9 AM but that was the time that the plane left. I got up and looked out and it was like a ghost town in the hotel. Everybody was gone. I was lucky that they got us on the band members plane. It was pretty fun.
DM What was it like after you won the 1995 National Championship game against Florida?
CD That was my first year starting. It was my Junior year. Everybody was saying that we wouldn't be as good as the '94 team. We lost four starters off the offensive line and we took that as a challenge to be better than them. The first game was a Thursday night game against Oklahoma State and I remember that Lawrence Phillips went off and we had a great rushing day. It was one of those games where we thought "Yeah, we can hang." The '95 team may have been one of the best teams in college football. Tommie Frazier was so much more refined and Brook Berringer was playing well that year. We played so well as a group. Christian Peter and Grant and those guys had the defense rocking. It was fun to sit back on the sidelines and watch our defense roll over people. They say the same thing about our offense. I have talked to Grant and those guys and they said if was fun for them to watch us roll down the field too. Everything clicked. It was just a great team. Almost a surreal moment. Every game we knew we were going to win. There was no question. It was just how much we were going to win by. The idea of getting down in a game was not even in our thoughts. We came out and dominated everybody.
DM What was the transition like when you went to the Arizona Cardinals?
CD I was on a high school team where we won most of our games. All through high school and college the teams that I was on lost a total of 11 games. My first year at Arizona we lost 12. It was very humbling. It was almost a whole different ball game. It was different. It's a whole different atmosphere. Playing at Nebraska was so fun and the fans were so estatic and everything was so alive. I got to Arizona and the fan base wasn't really there. It was partly the team's fault. I take credit for that. If we would have won more they would have come out but we never did. It was definitely a step down going there from playing at Nebraska in terms of facilities and things like that. I am still grateful to the Bidwell family for drafting me and giving me a chance to play in the NFL. I have mixed emotions about because Nebraska was so different.
DM You just came out of retirement to play for the St. Louis Rams. How did that come about?
CD I retired in May of this year. I had stayed in shape until then but the draft was over and the phone wasn't ringing and I thought I wasn't going to get picked up so I retired. I was fine with that. I started coaching T-Ball and a friend of mine who is the coach of the Lincoln North Star Gators offered me a job as defensive line coach and I accepted the job. I worked there during the summer and all of sudden two weeks ago my agent told me that the St. Louis Rams keep calling and want me to play. I was out of shape and it was easy for me to say "No, I don't want to play any more." It's hard for people to understand why I would walk away from the money and everything but it's not all about the money. If I was ready to play, it would have been an easier decision to come back. I didn't want to go into a situation where I would look bad. Being an 8 year guy you want to go out there and give it your best and play like you should when you're in shape. When you're out of shape it's so hard to do the technical side of it like your hands and your feet. That's kind of the way I'm feeling right now which is my second week at training camp here in St. Louis. The technique is killing me. The attitude and everything, I still have all that. I just need to get my technique down. Coach Martz called me and said, "Chris, I know that you retired and we will let you come in and get into shape and we will wean you into it." I said to myself, "You know what. I might as well give it another shot because 20 years from now I don't want to look back and regret this decision." I know the St. Louis Rams have a good shot at winning the Super Bowl this year and I definitely think they are a fast team with an explosive offense. That weighed heavy in my thoughts to come back. My wife didn't think I would be coming back. She thought I would stay retired. The thought of coming back and winning the Super Bowl is the main reason I'm here. I want to do the trifecta. I won it in high school and college and I need that Super Bowl ring now.
DM Do you still stay in touch with teammates that you played with?
CD Yeah, I do. Aaron Taylor, Kory Mikos, Jeff Ogard and others. Once you play and go to war with these guys they will always be your brother. I would do anything for any one of those guys and they would probably do the same for me. That goes for the guys that played back in the '70s. I played in the softball tournament with some of the older guys and you can see how they act around each other too. You know they went through some special times in their lives as a group that was a successful football team bonding together. You can tell that the bond is there for life.
DM Is there anything that you would like to comment about that hasn't been asked?
CD It's a blessing to play at Nebraska. The fans in the pros are nowhere near the fans that we have at Nebraska. There's a great fan base here is St. Louis. They do really well but any time you can sell out a stadium for as long as Nebraska has tells you how great the fans are. It's great to play for them. You try to tune it out on the field sometimes and you catch yourself just looking up in amazement at all the fans and knowing that they're cheering for us. I miss that sea of red. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life. The only thing that might top it is winning the Super Bowl this year.
DM Chris, thanks for sharing your Husker memories with us.