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High School Spotlight: Ken Dilger

As he told, Bucs tight end Ken Dilger laid the foundation for a career in professional football during his outstanding and enjoyable years in high school athletics


Bucs TE Ken Dilger was a quarterback in high school, but the University of Illinois saw potential at a different position

(by John Raffel,

Ken Dilger played a different position in high school football than he has in the NFL. But as a quarterback on the prep level, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end learned at an early age how to be an effective contributor on offense regardless of the position he was playing.

Dilger, a nine-year NFL veteran, was team captain at Heritage Hills High School in Mariah Hill, Indiana. He passed for a school-record 3,750 yards and had a school single-season mark of 2,005 yards as a senior.

"We were a pretty good team in high school," he said. "We had good coaches and good support. It was a lot of fun."

Dilger said his high school coach, Bob Clayton, was a major influence in his career.

"I remember that he was a very intense coach," Dilger said. "At that level you have to teach the kids football. He always wanted to get the best out of you and make you a better player.

"I still keep in touch with my high school coach. My parents still have a home around there."

Dilger was a multi-sport athlete in high school.

"I wanted to be a professional baseball player," he said. "Playing football was not my first choice."

Dilger was switched to tight end during his collegiate career at the University of Illinois.

"Illinois was the only school that offered me a scholarship," he said.

In college, Dilger started contemplating a future in the NFL.

"In high school, I was enjoying myself. As soon as I got to college, I thought I could compete," he said.

Dilger remains confident in his abilities as a tight end.

"My experience is a big strength for me," he said. "I've always been a good blocker. Age has taken a toll on my body, but I'm a very versatile tight end.

"I can block effectively both on passing and running plays. I can see a lot of things that are going on."

Being a quarterback in high school helps Dilger understand the tight end position.

"You learn a lot of things being a quarterback at an early level," he said. "It taught me a lot of things about offense."

Active in the community, Dilger has his own charity golf classic each summer, which has raised more than $75,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and local charities. He and his wife, Heidi, founded the Dilger Foundation for Children, which benefits various children's charities.

For high school standouts aspiring to one day play professional football, Dilger has some critical advice.

"Go to football camps in the summertime," he said. "A lot of times, college coaches go there. The biggest thing for high school players is to get noticed. Otherwise, you're just a name. You need to have coaches see you in action. They want to see how you stack up against other players. That's the best thing you can get involved in.

"At that age, I went to some passing camps in Indianapolis and Kentucky. Coaches saw me as a big raw kid. I still think that's why Illinois thought I could play tight end."

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