Every kid wants to be in the NFL – whether it is playing for their favorite team or not, just living the NFL dream is more than satisfying. Well, how about somebody who did all of that? Oh, and won the Super Bowl with them, too.
I recently had a chance to talk with Jeff Dellenbach, who did just that.
Although this all sounds like it was a piece of cake, Dellenbach didn’t just snap his fingers and become a Super Bowl Champion. It took years of work, training, and even changing sides of the ball.
“I was highly touted coming out of high school as a defensive end,” explained Dellenbach. “I went through my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin as a defensive end, came to spring football where things were looking real good, and came back to find out that several offensive lineman were struggling with grades.”
Mistakes open doors, and I’m sure those players are quite embarrased to this day. The coaching staff exploited their situation and swapped Dellenbach over to the other side of the ball to the offensive line.
“I wasn’t real thrilled about it,” laughed Dellenbach. “At that point, I did what I had to do.”
If Dellenbach was able to make it to the NFL as an offensive lineman, imagine what kind of potential he would have reached if he was able to stay at defensive line where he would have preffered to be.
Not only were they throwing Dellenbach around the football field from one side of the ball to the other, they continued to move him around like a hot potato for the rest of his college career. Dellenbach played guard his sophomore year and tackle his junior and senior year. When you put it all together, Dellenbach played three positions in his college career on two sides of the ball.
Although Dellenbach turned into a nomad on the football field, he was able to adjust to the positions and ended up getting drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round of the 1985 NFL draft.
Dellenbach went onto play for nearly a decade with Miami under Don Shula before a two-year stint in New England under Bill Parcells.
“I was fortunate to have played for some very good coaches, being able to play for Don Shula for ten years, then Bill Parcells. Bill was a little different in some ways that he would push you kind of hard and he was a no-nonsense kind of coach,” explained Dellenbach.
Parcells, who is currently working in the front office of Dellenbach’s first team, the Dolphins, was a head coach for the Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys.
“Knowing Bill Parcells, you never had to worry about him talking behind your back,” laughed Dellenbach.
Following his quick pit stop in New England, Dellenbach couldn’t have wanted anything other than having the opportunity to return home and play for his childhood team, the Packers. Dellenbach returned to his home state of Wisconsin to play for Green Bay in 1996, where he no doubt reached the climax of his career.
“It was great to come back to Green Bay, especially growing up a Packer fan. My grandfather actually had season tickets to Packer games, which you don’t come by very easily,” said Dellenbach. “Going to some games with him when I was young, playing college football in Wisconsin, I hoped to be drafted by the Packers out of college. It didn’t turn out that way, and I figured that was never going to happen.”
13 years after his NFL career began, he was finally back home. By playing for Green Bay, Dellenbach was able to find the final piece of his puzzle of his NFL dream.
Dellenbach got to know Brett Favre, and the two would spend time hunting and fishing in Alabama during their free time.
“On the field, Brett’s a great competitor and he’s fun to be around. Off the field, he’s a clown. He likes to have a lot of fun and he turns into a simple, blue jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.”
One season after leaving the Patriots, Dellenbach was facing them in Super Bowl XXXI. Although the Packers trailed 14-10 after the first quarter, they scored 17 unanswered points before halftime and ended up winning, 35-21.
“It was a great three-year experience. The Super Bowl is great, considering you spend your whole life dreaming of reaching the top and being the best. In the end, there really are only 53 guys who are happy.”
As the dust began to settle on his Super Bowl win, Dellenbach was back to the Super Bowl the next year with Green Bay, except it didn’t exactly go his way.
“Compared to winning it the year before, losing the Super Bowl was just a miserable feeling.”
Finally, after experiencing two sides of a Super Bowl, Dellenbach’s career began to wind down. After one more season in Green Bay, Dellenbach played for the Eagles in the 1999 season before eventually retiring after a short stop in Seattle in 2000.
After his NFL playing career, Dellenbach tried coaching with the Dolphins, but he said that wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do. He had kids in high school, which took time away from them, but he still wanted to be involved as a coach.
It all worked out, as Dellenbach began coaching high school football, which he still does today. Currently residing in Florida, he opened a training institute in 2005, helping athletes of all ages, shapes, sizes, and sports. The institute has even attracted major league baseball players.