David Diehl on War Chant Controversy, Illini Outlook This Year (Exclusive)


David Diehl lives and works in New York City these days, but the native to Chicago’s South Side (Brother Rice graduate) knows that the key to an Illini football resurgence lies in consistently recruiting Chicagoland. It was also a big part of the winning formula for Diehl’s 2001 team, the last Illinois squad to win the B1G title.

It was the same answer Dick Butkus gave, when we spoke to him in June, as it was also the blue print to Butkus’ Illini Rose Bowl team. Diehl played his entire 11 year NFL career with the New York Giants, where he was the starting left guard on two teams that beat the New England Patriots in two Super Bowls.

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Diehl (Instagram @donediehl66) was named All-Pro twice during his time with the Giants, before retiring in 2014. Since then, Diehl has been a football James Brown of sorts (“busiest man in show business”) as he does a ton of local and national broadcasting, based out of New York City.

His work includes serving as:

a CBS college color analyst, calling games for the NFL on FOX, Giants broadcasts/official website contributions including social media, hosting a show on SiriusXM NFL Radio “The Opening Drive with Bob Papa on Wednesday mornings, hosting a football show on WFAN in New York on Sundays that he’s not calling a NFL game for FOX. You can check out his website at this link.

We covered a whole host of topics in this podcast, including: the game this week versus Western Kentucky (in depth preview and prediction here), the direction of the program, the facility upgrade plan and the recent controversy surrounding the cessation of The War Chant.

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Diehl (Twitter @davediehl66) was a teammate of Athletic Director Josh Whitman, and the two men remain close friends to this day.

David Diehl on major takeaways from the week one win over Ball State: 

“To have 12 true freshmen, to have 24 players make their college debut- that’s a lot of youth and inexperience but in the long run it’s only going to help this football team build the foundation of where it wants to go and we saw significant impacts by true freshmen like Mike Epstein, Bobby Roundtree and other players that make you excited about the future of Illini football.”

You can see “University of Chief Illiniwek Alum” in Diehl’s Twitter profile. During his playing days, when player introductions were conducted on Sunday and Monday night football broadcasts, he stated his school as “University of Chief Illiniwek.”

He also has an image of Chief Illiniwek tattooed on his arm. Diehl also donated the money to pay for the football program’s weight room. No one can question his passion and devotion to his alma mater.


On the school ending the war chant:

“Once again we’re taking something that was the tradition and fabric of the University of Illinois, something that ties and binds us all together.

“As a football player, the only time we ever got to see the Chief perform was at halftime of the spring game or when we would go to other sports. To feel the energy, to see the student body, the alumni, young, old all gather arms and become united as one, that’s what the University is all about.

“So to continue to have these things taken away from the identity of who we are as a University it absolutely kills me because I know myself, I know anybody who put on one of those football jerseys or any of those Illlini jerseys for any other sport, you tried to embody as a player and as a person everything that the Chief embodied and symbolized himself.”


With word that the 3-in-1 song is next to go, David Diehl on what this trend means/where we could be headed/how it ends: 

“What are we going to be the University of Illinois Illinois? Who knows where this is even going to go anymore?

Being a part of the 1998 University of Illinois freshman rookie class, the fact that we were all based out of Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, we took pride in being Illini, we took pride in being from that state and that city and in representing our university.

For all of us and for anybody who has ever put on that jersey, you know much this kills you that it just keeps going on and on and on and on, and it’s taking away all the tradition and history that you tried to live up to with everybody who played the game and represented the University before you did.”


On Lovie Smith having to sit major impact players due to their failings in the area of leadership:

“I love the fact that Lovie, the disciplinarian that he is, right away from the get go let it be known that there is no individual player thats bigger than the I on that helmet, and what you represent as an Illini.

“It was disappointing to see Jamal Crawford, Larry Boyd and Christian Di Lauro, who are supposed to be veteran leaders of this group either sat for the entire game or didn’t start and played later on.”

david diehl

“Disappointing as it is, I love that Lovie set the standard, and I love the way that he did it.”

Here is the entire audio of our exclusive conversation with David Diehl below via Sound Cloud

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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