Well, this is certainly a difficult challenge!
Try naming just five of YOUR favorite men to suit up in lightning bolts! Can you do it?!
Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes one say “Yeah, I like him!” Does it matter if it is an “old school” guy where they played more smashmouth football? Or one from the “new” era where it seems like statistics seem to be the norm?
Either way, we all have our favorites for whatever reason. Maybe it’s how they seemingly just fly down the field as if on wings. Perhaps it’s how that one guy is just ALWAYS busting through the offensive line. Could it be the brashness or confidence that reaches us? You all know what you appreciate about the players you can’t wait to see take the field.
Here’s my list of my top five “old school” Chargers, though there were many choices!
Punter for the Chargers from 1994 to 2003, Bennett was formerly an Australian Rules football player. One always knew two things about him: he had the BIGGEST kicking leg and he did not shy away from hitting an opponent if need be. You just knew that Bennett was going to give his team the best field position possible! It was something to see when that ball left his foot and caught air!
Lionel “Little Train” James:
Gosh, this guy was special! He was only in the league for five short years, but he left his mark! Small in stature at 5’6″ and 171 pounds, James was THE smallest running back when he came into the NFL in 1984. His best season was in 1985 when he established three records for a running back.
James led the AFC with 86 receptions and set the bar at 2,583 all-purpose yards including 1,027 receiving yards. I remember watching him squirt through holes and run along the sideline. He had so much power in those legs and he was quick; defenders had difficulty stopping him. Sadly, his stellar career ended due to a degenerative hip injury.
Ha, gotcha on this one! Who could forget the Tongan TE who literally was responsible for scoring the go-ahead touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers to get the Bolts into the 1994 playoffs?! Yes, I know that Dennis Gibson broke up a Neil O’Donnell pass with mere seconds on the clock.
Pupunu had two stints in San Diego (1992-97, 1999). One of the other reasons I and other fans liked him was because of his touchdown celebration: he would pretend that he was opening a coconut and then hoisted it skyward as if drinking from it. I’d venture to say that some folks might have thought he was opening and drinking a beer!
Undoubtedly, the BEST nose tackle to ever suit up for the Blue and Gold. “Ja-mal” was a big, hulking man at 6’3′ and 348 pounds. He was a tackling machine and one of my favorite guys to watch on defense not named Junior Seau. Eleven seasons in San Diego saw the huge but quick man wreak havoc against opposing offenses by collecting 240 tackles, defend 18 passes, force three fumbles plus a lone touchdown and interception apiece.
He was not only an outstanding defensive lineman for the Chargers, he was also considered one of the most elite nose tackles in the NFL in his day. I would always get a kick out of watching that huge body shove it’s way into the middle. Jamal meant business!
As a defensive end, O’Neal was another adept tackler for the Bolts. Voted Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986 he racked up 12.5 sacks prior to losing almost two years due to a knee injury. It was week seven of the ’88 season before he took the field again. His stats weren’t great that year (four sacks/28 tackles) but he was on his way. His performance that season made it possible for him to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.
By the time his career in San Diego was completed, per Pro Football Reference his numbers were: six Pro Bowl selections, 572 tackles, 105.5 sacks which made him the team leader in that category; forced 18 fumbles while recovering nine, two interceptions and a touchdown. O’ Neal is currently tied with Lawrence Taylor at 13th all-time as they both have 132.5 sacks in their careers. Yet another great defenseman for the Chargers.
Gill Byrd – Safety 1983-1992; played every position in the secondary (LCB/SS/FS/RCB), 42 INTs (4x in Top 10)
Stan Humphries – Quarterback 1992-1997; only QB to lead team to Super Bowl (’94), he also guided them to 10 fourth quarter comebacks to go with 12 game-winning drives. He retired as a result of sustaining four concussions in 22 months.
Charlie Joiner – Wide Receiver 1976-1986; aged 39 when he hung up his cleats, Joiner was one of Fouts’ favorite targets to the tune of 586 receptions, 9,203 yards and 47 TDs.
Kellen Winslow – Tight End 1979-1987; in addition to his memorable “Epic in Miami” performance, Winslow was a five-time Pro Bowler. He also placed in the Top 10 in these categories: receptions (4x), receiver (3x), and receiving TDs (4x). He had some gaudy numbers for a guy who only played in 109 games: 6,741 yards on 541 catches with 45 of those being TDs. After just eight years in the NFL, he, too, was forced to retire due to injury.
Keep an eye out for a list of my current players!
Thank you for reading!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a reoccurring series of the best and worst memories from Charger fans. This week, longtime Bolt fan Bill Carli provided us his greatest and most fond memory. Please read and leave a comment about your reaction to The 1995 AFC Championship win over the Steelers.
Part of being a fan is having some ruthless memories of your favorite team. On the other hand, there are also some incredibly great ones. The 1995 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is arguably the greatest recollection in Bolts history.
Now, I don’t recall this game as many of my readers do because of my age, however I do remember snippets of my household during the game. In typical party fashion, my parents had the true football game time goods which included food, TV cranked, and of course beer. It’s very likely all of you had the same theme going.
The Chargers 1994 season was not perfect by all means. Head coach Bobby Ross and the team had their losses, but they still were crowned AFC West Champions and earned a ticket into the playoffs. You may have heard this before, but the playoffs are a whole different league. The NFL’s very best teams are setup and sent to battle in order to get to the ultimate game; the Super Bowl. For San Diego, it was their destiny to be there.
Do you believe in miracles? Many don’t, but I guarantee that the entire NFL football nation did that day on January 15th, 1995. Just ask Bill Carli, he was with family and friends watching every play of that game to its final seconds.
Bill distinctly remembers “On fourth down when it appeared imminent that the Steelers were going to score. Dennis Gibson knocked down Neil O’Donnell’s pass in the end zone to send the Chargers to their first Super Bowl.”
The Chargers finished the game with 14 unanswered points scored in the second half to upset the Steelers. Junior Seau certainly played one of his greatest games of his career. It was an incredible effort by San Diego who struggled to finish in the end zone majority of the game.
Immediately following the tipped pass, Bill fell to the floor. Rolling around, in full Chargers gear and Charger cape, crying tears of joy. After that play, I’m sure the City of San Diego could be heard across the nation. The blissful tears from diehard fans could have probably flooded the Nile. There was complete football ecstasy in America’s finest city that day.
After the win against the Steelers, it was official that the Chargers owned the entire AFC and would represent the conference in the biggest game of the year. It was a great season which included some of the team’s best players to wear the blue and gold jersey. Memories like these are forever kept in the hearts of Bolt fans and will never fade away. The 1995 AFC Championship game is just that.
Twenty years have gone by since our beloved Chargers played in their one and only Super Bowl. Let that sink in….20 years. Where were you on January 29th, 1995? Were you born yet? Were you entering middle school? Or were you old enough to be overcome with awesome disbelief as you watched your Cinderella Chargers defeat Miami and Pittsburgh in order to play in their first ever Super Bowl?
Many of you that are old enough to remember know exactly where you were and who you were with when you sat down to watch Super Bowl XXIX. San Diego was not expected to enter the playoffs let alone play in the NFL title game during the 1994 season; a solid 9-7 was what most “experts” expected out of America’s finest city.
Now that I have you going back in time, do you wonder what those players from the ‘94 season are up to? Let’s take a look at a few players on this special team that defied all odds.
Head Coach – Bobby Ross came to San Diego in 1992 after taking the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to an 11-0-1 record and winning the ACC Championship. Coach Ross would lead the Bolts to three playoffs, two division titles and one illustrious Super Bowl during his 5 years. After his departure, Ross went on to coach the Detroit Lions for 4 year before retiring. After four years of retirement, with the encouragement of his wife, he came back from retirement to coach Army’s football team. Three years later he retired again and has not coached since 2006. He currently resides where he was born 78 years ago – in Richmond, VA. He is active in his community and speaks often at schools and banquets.
Offensive Coordinator – Ralph Friedgen was 47 when he was the OC for San Diego. Prior to the NFL, he was the OC for Georgia Tech under Bobby Ross and both left the college game in 1992. In 1996 Coach Friedgen was released and went back to Georgia Tech where he was the OC for four years. He then moved on to be the Head Coach for the Maryland Terps for 10 years. Last season, Ralph moved on to Rutgers University where he is currently the OC.
Defensive Coordinator – Bill Arnsparger, 88 years of age, coached for many years in the NFL. After leaving the Dolphins in 1983, he became the Head Coach at LSU until he left in 1986 to become the AD at the University of Florida. Bill walked into major issues in Florida where both the football and basketball programs were put on probation. He was able to come out of that mess by hiring Steve Spurrier to coach the Gator football program. Coach Arnsparger became the DC for San Diego the same year as Ross and Friedgen, 1992. Shortly after the Super Bowl loss, Coach Arnsparger retired for good, stating it had to do with the prostate cancer surgery he had the previous year. In 1998 his book “Coaching Defensive Football” was published where it received good reviews from readers.
Quarterback – Stan Humphries Is known for leading our Bolts to the first ever Super Bowl in franchise history. In 1992 he is lead the Chargers to their first playoff appearance in over a decade, while starting 0-4 to begin the season – currently the only NFL team to ever start 0-4 and make the playoffs. Stan was inducted to the San Diego Chargers Hall Of Fame in 2002. Currently Stan, at the age of 49, is the assistant coach for the women’s basketball team at his alma mater University of Louisiana of Monroe. He has been coaching women’s basketball going on 12 years and was brought to ULM last season.
Running back – Natrone Means had his best year in the NFL with San Diego in 1994. He ran for 1,350 yards with 12 touchdowns and at the time, became the youngest NFL running back to score a TD in a Super Bowl. Means was released before the 1996 season where he then landed in Jacksonville for two seasons. As an unrestricted free agent, Natrone was back in America’s finest city where he played for two more seasons. In 2000 he did sign with Carolina, however he did not have one rush attempt and retired after the season. He coached at Livingston College, first as a Running Backs Coach and then as the Offensive Coordinator. Natrone, 42, currently is the Running Backs coach for Winston-Salem State University and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wide Receiver – Mark Seay’s story is one of tragedy, inspiration and fortitude. Before playing college football in 1988, he attended his sister’s Halloween party where gun shots were fired outside the home. When he heard the gunfire, he quickly used his body to shield his 2 yr old niece; subsequently a bullet hit him through the pelvis, hip and lung and blowing out one of his kidneys. The bullet was on its way to his heart but it stopped prior, and remains in his body to this day. After filing a lawsuit when Cal State Long Beach refused to bring him on the team, CSLB coach George Allen was able to bring him on board while appeasing everyone with Mark wearing extra protection and taking a urine test after each game. Mark came to San Diego from San Francisco in 1993. His most memorable play was the game winning catch against Miami in the 1994 AFC Divisional playoff game. Mark only played 3 more years in the NFL after the Super Bowl run, one with the Chargers and two with the Eagles, ending his NFL career after the 1997 season. In 2003, Mark’s older brother was shot in San Bernardino, later passing away after being in an 11-month coma. In 2006 his younger brother was shot to death in the family’s backyard by two assailants – this happened while Mark was in the middle of a 48 week police academy course. He currently tours the country as a motivational speaker. Here is a video:
Wide Receiver – Tony Martin played four seasons in Miami before making the cross-country trip to San Diego in 1994. Tony was the main target of Stan Humphries and even recorded a 99 yard touchdown reception. Martin caught 9 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the ‘94 playoff games. Tony played 3 more seasons with the Chargers as the #1 WR until he left for Atlanta in 1998. Tony was charged with money laundering after his Falcons lost in the Super Bowl. He was later acquitted while under contract with the team that drafted him, the Miami Dolphins, where he played two more seasons before heading back to Atlanta for his final NFL season in 2001. There is not much information on Tony and his life after football.
Tight End – Alfred Pupunu played with the Chargers from ‘92-97 before he went to Kansas City, NY Giants, back with San Diego and finishing his career with Detroit in 2000. Although he didn’t score many touchdown in his career, albeit he scored against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, his famous dance after those scores was a famous one. After a brief time being a volunteer assistant with the University of Utah from 2005-2007, he then became the RB/TE coach for Southern Utah University. Since 2010, he has been on the coaching staff for the University of Idaho.
Kicker – John Carney played in the NFL for 23 years on teams of Tampa Bay, LA Rams, San Diego, New Orleans, Kansas City, NY Giants and ending his career back in New Orleans. Currently he still owns the Chargers record for all time leading scorer. John currently runs a pre-season kicking training camp called “The Launching Pad.”
Inside linebacker – Dennis Gibson played 7 seasons with Detroit before coming to San Diego for 2 season before retiring. Of course Charger historians will know his name for the 4th down pass deflection in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh that sent San Diego to it’s first Super Bowl. Currently, Dennis owns and operates Encore Pizza Company out of Johnston, Iowa; a suburb of De Moines.
Defensive End – Leslie O’Neil played a long career in the NFL from 1986-1999. Leslie was the first Charger to ever be bestowed with the Defensive Rookie Player of the Year in 1986. His career accolades include 6 Pro Bowls, leading the Chargers in sacks from 1990-1995 and is currently tied for 11th in career sacks with 132.5. He was inducted into the San Diego Chargers HOF in 2014, but has not yet been voted into Canton
There have been 8 players from this 1994 squad whom have passed away tragically and far too young, in this writer’s opinion.
David Griggs – Linebacker
David played 6 seasons, five with Miami and one with San Diego. Five months after playing in the Super Bowl as a Charger, he died in a fatal car accident when his car slid off the ramp on the Florida Turnpike near Fort Lauderdale – he was 28 years of age.
Rodney Culver – Running back
Rodney didn’t carry the ball much during the Super Bowl run but made an appearance with the holdout and injury to Natrone Means in 1995. After that season, in May of 1996, he and his wife boarded ValueJet Flight 592 which crashed into the Florida Everglades killing every passenger – he was 26 years of age.
Doug Miller – Linebacker
Doug was a member of the Charger for two seasons; recording no stats. He was struck by lightning twice during a camping trip in Colorado in July of 1998 – he was 29 years old.
Curtis Whitley – Center
Curtis played in 30 games from 1992-1994 with San Diego. After which he played in 42 games for the Panthers from 1995-1997. A day after his birthday in May of 2008, local Sheriff deputies located Whitley dead from a drug overdose in his trailer home in Fort Stockton, TX. – he was 39 years of age.
Chris Mims – Defensive End
Chris was drafted in the first round by the Chargers in 1992 where he played until 1996. After a short stint with Washington, he returned to San Diego for two more seasons. His best season was in 1994 where he recorded 11 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 35 tackles. In October of 2008, Los Angeles Police officers were doing a welfare check on Chris when they found him dead. The cause of death was cardiac arrest as his heart was enlarged. At the time of death, Chris weighed 456 pounds – he was 38 years young
Shawn Lee – Left Defensive Tackle
Shawn played his first four years in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Miami. He came to San Diego in 1992 and played through the 1997 season. During the SB run, he recorded 6.5 sacks with 30 tackles and one forced fumble. The last few years of his life, Shawn was struggling with diabetes. In February of 2011, after suffering through double pneumonia, he died from a cardiac arrest – he was 44 years old.
Lewis Bush – LInebacker
Lewis was drafted by San Diego in the fourth round of the 1993 draft. He played for the Chargers from ‘93-99 and then ended his career with three season in Kansas City. Lewis recorded 3 tackles during the SB run. As he began to start in more games beginning in 1995, he showed a big improvement. In December of 2011, less than a week after his birthday, he was found dead of heart attack – he was 42 years old.
Junior Seau – Linebacker
Junior is probably one of the best players to ever put on a San Diego Charger uniform. There is much I can say about this remarkable man and football player. His intensity, leadership and drive to make everyone around him better on and off the field, just tips the iceberg on this Hall of Fame player. In May of 2012, his girlfriend found him in his home with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest – he was 43 years old.
Well I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane with me. During this writing, I was overcome with excitement and then overshadowed with sad emotions. What a team……what a ride.
Thanks for reading.
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.
It was the summer of 1982 – I remember it very clearly. I was standing in my room, with MLB wallpaper surrounding me. My father was ranting about his favorite baseball team, the Twins, and I realized that I did not have a team in any sport that I cheered for. At that moment, I decided to be my own person and cheer for the same team in every sport for the rest of my life. Should I get behind the Twins? I knew my dad loved the Twins and Vikings because he was born in Minnesota. I said, “I live in Arizona so what professional teams can I become a die-hard fan of? The Phoenix Suns – CHECK!” Now I knew there wasn’t any professional baseball of football teams in Arizona, so what should I do? I distinctly remember looking up at my wallpaper and seeing the San Diego Padres emblem. “Well, I was born in San Diego and I love baseball – CHECK!” Football was next on my list. How fitting was it that a few months earlier I had watched “The Epic in Miami” with my dad and now I was about to select the Chargers as my forever team. I remember my dad telling me after that game, “Son, this is a man’s game and this is how the game should be played.” San Diego Chargers – CHECK!
I was born in late 1972, the location was La Mesa, CA. I lived there for a few years until my parents moved my sister and I further north to Camarillo, CA. At age 5, my dad was transferred to Arizona where I would remain until after i graduated from High School. We were a middle class family that took summer vacations every year to San Diego. We would do the “touristy” stuff, Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Zoo, the beaches…etc., but every other year I would get to go to a Padre game at the Murph. I actually still have a pin that says “Goose Saved The Game” on it. In my teens, it became more and more apparent that I seemed to be the only one I knew to cheer for the Padres/Chargers. Then I met my longtime friend Jim, who had recently moved from San Diego to my town and he was a die-hard as well. I knew I now had a best friend for life.
After High School, I needed to leave. The heat, my parents and all the girls who broke my heart, drove me to find another place to call home. I was involved with my church and realized I had a special gift of listening to people and helping others. So I decided to find a Christian University where I could receive my degree in Social Work as well as continue to play baseball. I moved to Portland, OR where I attended and graduated from Concordia University. Now that I was in the NW, and the only other Bolt fan I knew had remained in Arizona to attend college, I was once again in a lonely place.
I remained a true Chargers fan and I was fine with being “different.” My first NFL game was in Seattle when the Seahawks hosted the Bills. The Hawk fans were loud and seemed to be passionate. I did like the fact that I was cheering for the home team, but it also make me sad that I had never seen the Chargers play at home. Should I switch? I mean, I could be living in the NW for a very long time. NO! I was not going to break the promise I made to myself. Then it happened – the 1994 SB team. It was like a sign from the football Gods paying me for my loyalty. The Divisional Playoffs vs. Miami was a blur, but I remember the best play, in my opinion, of our team’s history in the AFC Championship game. I know exactly where I was – alone in the basement of my now ex-in-laws, getting chills watching the replay of Dennis Gibson’s pass deflection that sealed the game and sent the team to their first ever Super Bowl.
I graduated college in 1996 and moved to Seattle, WA. Now even further away from the nest city in the world and still being the only fan I knew, I was once again on an island – literally too since I did live on Vashon Island briefly. I made the best of it. When MLB decided to have Interleague in 1997 I was torn – I was an old school traditionalist and loved the fact that the AL and NL never met until the World Series, but I also was a lonely Padre fan and couldn’t wait to see my Padres in Washington. In 1999, my last year living in Renton, WA., I was able to attend my first Charger game. It was a victorious game for the team, a battle of the FG kickers, but I was happy. There were a hand full of blue and yellow jerseys in attendance and when we passes each other to the food court or restroom, it was like we were long-lost family members. My eyes were open to the possibility that there might be other Bolt Heads near me but how do I seek them out?
In 2000, I divorced my wife and move to Florida where I remain today. Now I was even further away from Bolt Nation. Then about four years ago, while watching a game at Buffalo Wild Wings, I met another fan – Tom. His whole family, wife and two daughters, were all decked out in Sproles, Gates and Rivers jerseys. It was such a nice find especially with my wife’s family being die-hard Steeler fans (Anyone relate to my daily hell??) Being in the “melting pot” of Florida I seem to always be outnumbered – Bucs, Giants, Patriots, Steelers and Broncos overwhelm me. Even though Tom and his lovely family were here to share and enjoy the games with me, I still felt alone. Then I met BoogaP.
Like many of you, I owe Booga a lot for bringing me aboard BoltBlitz and introducing me to all of you. I joined Twitter earlier this year at age 41 and had no idea what was in store. After BoogaP and I followed each other, I sent him a DM about a tweet he sent wanting staff writers. I jumped at the chance since I love to write and what better way than to write about one of my passions, to write about the best team in America’s finest city. I stand here before all of you with tears of joy streaming down as I look at my life divided into two – the lonely soldier to now a part of the Bolt Family. Even though I am still profoundly sad that I am not out in San Diego and able to meet most of you, especially for the 2nd BoltBlitz Meetup, I feel that I am a part of this unique and tremendous community. I no longer walk around town or in Tampa Bay when the Chargers play the Buccaneers, wearing my jersey and feeling isolated.
I just wanted to take this time and explain my story of how alone I have felt my whole life and to express gratitude to all of you, especially BoogaP, for making me feel a part of the greatest community of fans in the world. #BoltUp #DieHardForever
Want to tell me your story? Want to ask me any questions about mine? Go ahead! Would love to hear from any and all of you. Comment below or find me out on twitter at @C_F_O_A
“PEACE….and Boltness Forever” – BWK