Miles Dieffenbach, former Penn State offensive lineman and leader of the Nittany Lions, understands the value of his Happy Valley experience.
Dieffenbach — a Nittany Lion from 2010-14 — played under five head coaches (three full-time, two interim), started 26 times and went through the post-NCAA sanctions transfer free-for-all.
Dieffenbach joined us for this week’s “Five Questions” to discuss old roommates, Penn State’s standout offensive linemen, how Penn State prepped him for the real world, and more.
Q: How intently do you follow the team, and is there any group text with former teammates? That’s a theme I’ve gathered after doing a lot of these Q&As with the younger guys.
A: We all follow the team really closely. My group text is with my roommates I had there throughout my time, so it’s Brad Bars, Mike Hull and Jesse Della Valle. We’re talking throughout the whole season, especially during the games. Those are the guys I keep in contact the most. But there are still a couple guys on the team like Andrew Nelson and guys like that that I had relationships with when I was there. Still keeping in contact with them.
Q: You mentioned Mike; he’s doing his thing in Miami with the Dolphins. How cool is that to see one of your former roommates stick and make a name for himself in the league?
A: Oh, it’s awesome. Mike’s an unreal player, and we always knew he had that fantastic ability. He’s hard-working, tough, smart. But he’s also a great person. I love that guy to death. He was my roommate there the entire time, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
Q: You also touched on Andrew Nelson, and he’s had such an up-and-down career. It’s unfortunate how it’s turned out for him here at the end of his career with the injuries. Knowing him well, how do you put his career in perspective?
A: He was there with (Bill) O’Brien’s first year, and I’ll never forget him coming in as a true freshman with a ton of talent. He’s just been riddled with injuries, which is really, really unfortunate. He’s a fantastic guy with fantastic ability. ... But just the things he’s been through. He was recruited by Joe (Paterno), having O’Brien come in and all that. He’s been through a lot.
Q: Outside of Nelson and Brendan Mahon, a lot of those guys are going to be coming back. You’ve got Connor McGovern, Ryan Bates, Chasz Wright, Steven Gonzalez, Will Fries. Is there one guy on the offensive line that sticks out to you when you’re watching?
A: Bates has performed pretty well at tackle, making that switch last year from guard. That’s not an easy switch. He had a really good year and has really good athletic ability. I think Coach (Matt) Limegrover’s done a really great job of hammering his technique and getting the guys playing together as a unit. They have a lot of experience now with young guys getting an opportunity to play this year. Gonzalez is huge. That guy has to be 330, 340 pounds. They have big guys up front, and they’re all athletic. It’s going to be really good to see that offensive line grow. Because that’s the tell-tale thing for an offensive line, getting experienced guys who have played and letting them grow into their roles, grow into a unit, grow as one. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform now moving forward with that experience.
Q: Now, what have you been up to since putting away the pads? And how did your experience at Penn State kind of help prep you for what you’re doing?
A: I work for Carnegie Mellon University in their investment office, handling the university’s endowment. Football has been the greatest teacher any kid, any guy, could have throughout his life. Especially with the adversity that our team and my class went through in those five years. You’re not going to find many 23-year-old kids coming out of college who had to make the kind of decisions that we had or see the things that we saw in our time there. That really preps you for the rest of your life in a pretty amazing way. You walk into interviews saying when I was 20 years old, I had the opportunity to leave Penn State. I had scholarship offers from 20 different schools throughout the country, and I could’ve gone anywhere and not sit out a year. Instead I chose to stay at Penn State and stick to my word and not leave the team that I committed to. I think that means a lot this day and age, sticking to their word and sticking through things that are hard and not always the easiest. The easiest route for all of us would’ve been to leave, right? We all could’ve went anywhere, but we chose to stay. We loved the coaches, and we loved the team. We loved the fans, and we didn’t want to abandon the university. I think that means a lot to employers. I’ll never wish I went to school anywhere else. Going to Penn State and playing on that team with those guys, I’m very thankful for my time there.