Out here in the small Suncoast area of Florida, it is extremely rare to find Charger fans. I have met only a couple and much more recently had the pleasure of meeting Dino Rustin. Not only was adding another Bolt Family member close by me a huge success, but the way we met was priceless.
I was at my daughter’s soccer game when I noticed someone sitting down and wearing a Chargers hat. With that symbol being obscure out here, I of course had to shout “Go Chargers!” Immediately he looked up and shook my hand with a smile. He asked if I drove the blue Mazda with the Chargers emblem. After confirming that it was indeed my car, he proceeded to tell me that he left me a note. He stated that him and his family just moved from Oklahoma to Sarasota two days prior and when he noticed another Charger supporter, he had to connect somehow. It just so happened that his daughter was playing against my daughter’s soccer team – that is Charger fate for sure.
Dino is a solid individual with so much passion for his work and the Chargers. So without further ado, please welcome Dino Rustin to the Bolt Family!!
BWK: Let’s start the interview with you giving the fans a short personal bio about yourself
Dino: My name is Dino. I was born in 1980. I’m a native of Pacific Beach and have since moved across the country, now residing in Florida. I have two amazing daughters and a wonderful wife, all Charger fans. One of my daughters is named after Mr. Padre himself.
BWK: When did you decide to become a diehard Chargers fan?
Dino: See picture below
BWK: Who is your favorite Bolt player – former and current?
Dino: My favorite current Charger is #85. I remember his first pre-season…the story building up around this guy who had never played football in college, but somehow he dazzled us with incredible hands, post-up jump-balls…and now a lengthy Hall-of-Fame career. My favorite former Charger is #3…John Carney. I remember throughout the 90s, the Chargers winning games with 18 or 15 points. He was automatic…and he was reliable…and he was the #1 player on my Fantasy Football team! Not to mention, I met him a few times and he was a SUPER cool guy! (pic below at UCSD training camp) I would be remiss to not mention LT, Fouts, Seau…
BWK: What is your favorite moment/play in the team’s history?
Dino: Not even a question… Jan 15, 1995….Neil O’Donnell-led Steelers lined up at the goal line, Barry Foster coming out of the backfield. Last play of the game. I was on my knees in the living room…no one was saying a word in the house. Out of nowhere comes #57 Dennis Gibson…the ball gets batted to the ground…game over…Chargers going to the Super Bowl!!! I cried…my family screamed and hugged…horns blared throughout Pacific Beach and the whole city. I ran outside and screamed…others were doing the same. I’ll never forget that moment! Adding more sweetness to the victory, I had chosen to save every Monday SDUT Sports page that season to make a scrapbook…just for fun…little did I know! As for Dennis Gibson, in my opinion, for one play in his entire career that mattered, he belongs in the Chargers Hall of Fame.
BWK: Addressing this year’s team, tell me what players you would award for MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year. Briefly tell me why you selected the players you did.
Dino: MVP – Rivers, with Gates as a close second. Rivers was clearly hurt and toughed it out. He laid a few eggs here and there, but I’d hate to think what would have happened without him taking snaps under center.
COMEBACK – M80…dude should have probably retired and he comes back with an 850 yard season with a few scores. Solid from a guy we needed to be solid…and he did it very quietly, which I appreciate, as it communicates steadiness over the whole of 16 games.
OFFENSIVE – This is going to Gates. Antonio was everything Rivers needed him to be this season. After being riddled with injuries, I was excited that he put together back-to-back solid seasons, and found the end zone plenty.
DEFENSIVE – This may be controversial, but I appreciated how much Manti Te’o stepped up at the end of the season. I realize he had injuries to deal with and is still finding his game, but he was very solid in those final two games and it reshaped the entire defense as a force to be reckoned with.
ROOKIE – Branden Oliver. Who else was there? I think Verrett, Watt, and Attaochu will be good players when they actually get off the injury report and lock in to their positions.
BWK: In your opinion, what is the most glaring needs for the team and what do you think management should do to address those needs?
Dino: Clearly, the offensive line needs a lot of work. No team can go in thinking they could lose half a dozen O-lineman to IR, so their effort this season was commendable. We need to draft a couple linemen high, as well as go out and get a couple of vets. Having a seasoned center would be very beneficial. We need to get Mathews off the books, which is unfortunate, but he doesn’t play enough to merit a spot. Then we need to sign or draft a guy who can run between the tackles and take a beating. We definitely need a KOS (Kickoff Specialist) who can kick it out of the end zone, as field position was a huge issue for us. I would sign Ndamakong Suh in a second, and pay him whatever he wants, to shore up the D-line.
BWK: Do you follow any routine on Charger Game Day? Any musical playlists that you listen to?
Dino: I wear my Chargers tie to church, which is kinda fun. Of course, I have to find a place to watch the game since I’m on the east coast now. If we get the game on TV, I get my girls ready to watch…toss a football around with them on the floor when one is available. I call my dad about a dozen times to talk pre-game…and probably another dozen calls during the game. For primetime games, I start drinking coffee around 8:00pm so I can stay up. My family bumps the San Diego Super Chargers song all afternoon! The kids dance and love it…I really think the Chargers ought to ditch the new songs and go back to the classic!
BWK: In your opinion, who is winning the Super Bowl this year? This team you predicted – what page should the Chargers take from to ensure a Super Bowl run in America’s finest city?
Dino: I think the Patriots put together a complete package this season and Brady knows how to win the big games. It’s gonna be tough for teams to come into New England and win in January. I think the Patriots have succeeded, like the Broncos, in aggressively pursuing game-changer type players. They identified a need, and went out and got the best guy possible from free agency.
BWK: Would you like to see Frank Reich around for at least one more year or would you like to show him the door? Defend your response.
Dino: I was pretty indifferent on Reich. I think he could have been good for Buffalo if Rex didn’t sign. I wouldn’t mind him sticking around, but I wasn’t super impressed either. I don’t get the sense that he ever got to dial up the offense he intended, due to all the injuries. Looking at the games where the Chargers just couldn’t score…which were quite a few…you have to at least kinda credit him with not dialing up something different in terms of adjustments.
BWK: What player impressed you the most this season? What player disappointed you the most? Please explain why you choose who you did
Dino: Impressed me the most…Melvin Ingram, coming back from that gnarly injury again. What a gamer…and he, like Te’o, really changed the whole vibe of the defense. Shout out of Brandon Flowers too…coming in here on the one year contract and playing really well in that corner role! Chris Watt gets a gold star…he was never supposed to come in here and be a starting center and he did what he could. Lastly, Dontrelle Inman looks like he could REALLY contribute in coming years. In terms of disappointment, I think we were all hoping for more out of Ladarius Green. I don’t think he was on the field enough, due to Gates’s solid year, but I think a lot of fans were expecting him to really emerge and takeover this year. Instead, Gates put up a pro-bowl caliber season, and Green faded into the background. He’s a weapon that could be utilized more.
BWK: How do you feel about McCoy and his time thus far in San Diego?
Dino: McCoy has been ok…I’m not overly impressed, but he’s found ways to win with a trash heap of a team. I think he’s solid, steady, and with more time and weapons, could really blossom.
BWK: What game was your favorite to watch in the 2014-2015 season? What game was your least favorite?
Dino: Least is easy…the KC game. I came home to SD for the holidays…got to sit down with the fam and watch a game like the good old days…everything is riding on the line, and the Bolts lay an egg. It was really frustrating that I almost sensed they would lose the game by the first quarter. Favorite game has to be a toss-up between the Niners and Ravens game…I like a good nail biter, and those took me to another play of adrenaline.
BWK: Being one of few teams that has yet to achieve Super Bowl Champion status, do you feel San Diego can bring home the Lombardi Trophy in the next few years?
Dino: I think if they could spend their cap money wisely and put in place the pieces they are missing, then yes. If they keep dragging their feet in free agency and ending up with 2nd & 3rd tier players, there’s no way.
BWK: What are your thoughts about Ryan Mathews? Talk about your feelings when he was drafted all the way through this past season.
Dino: I was excited when Mathews was drafted. I never expected him to be LT, but I figured he could be a solid workhorse back. The fumbles were rough early on, and cost us some games. Then the injuries starting piling up and it took him off the field. When he plays, he’s great…he just doesn’t play enough. During his time, I would question his desire from time to time…wondered if he wanted to be a superstar in the NFL. I am no doctor, and his injury history is unfortunate and no one’s fault, but it’s hard to grow up watching guys like Seau play with pinched nerves and Rivers having had ACL surgery before the playoff games. Then thinking about Mathews and his injuries that kept him on the sidelines for crucial games. That’s when doubts of his toughness come to my mind.
BWK: Do you think Philip Rivers needs to win a ring in order to be voted into the Hall of Fame?
Dino: I think that over the next decade, we’re gonna see a lot of quarterbacks putting up Rivers-like numbers. The league has become so pass-happy that Rivers, who had a 4,000+ yard season, is in the same ballpark with 11 or 12 other quarterbacks. My guess is that Rivers would need to put this team on his back and win a couple of rings, as well as an MVP award, to even be considered. By the time he retires, his numbers could look very ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Rivers and believe he will hold a special place in the hearts of Charger fans for the rest of our lives…I just don’t know that his numbers will translate to a HOF nod.
BWK: Do you think the Chargers should address River’s replacement this offseason?
Dino: I think we better start doing something now. This probably won’t be popular, but if RG3 is available in free agency, I think he’d be worth bringing in for a season or two to see if he can develop under Rivers’ tutelage. I think drafting a franchise QB is a huge risk, so I imagine our post-Rivers near-future is already in the league somewhere.
BWK: With our cap room and looking at next season’s opponents, what are your early predictions for 2015-2016?
Dino: I think if the Chargers could sign a couple of impact players and get a starter in the draft’s first round, we could do alright. Sign a beast of a RT, a seasoned center, Suh on D, another cornerback with Flowers and Verrett…draft Melvin Gordon?? That could be a really solid team. The schedule is the schedule…and it doesn’t look all that much easier than this season’s schedule. If we stay healthy, I think the Chargers will win four division games and win the AFC West at 11-5.
BWK: Anything else you want to tell the Bolt Family about yourself?
Dino: I will be a Chargers fan forever! Even though I don’t live in SD anymore, I will be heartbroken if they take the golden paycheck that is promised in LA. I wish that San Diego’s non-diehard-Charger fans would pull their heads out and start supporting a civic cause that is much bigger than any of us! The stadium means the Chargers…but it could mean so much more!
I want to thank Dino again for his time in conducting this interview.