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A Salute to the 2016 Alabama Seniors: Gehrig Dieter, quiet leader and technician.

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The naturally gifted athlete became a leader in a short time.

Derek Dieter

Some athletes are born leaders, others reluctantly learn the role, yet still others lead through example. Though Gehrig Dieter’s skills may have been learned from an early age, he has been a natural leader in the locker room, the class room, and on the field.

Dieter, the 6’3”, 209-pound graduate transfer out of South Bend, Indiana comes from a naturally-athletic family. His father Derek, a former competitive power lifter, introduced Dieter to lifting when Gehrig was just four, and it he took to it instantly. It has been a life spent competing ever since: football, baseball, powerlifting, even academics, where Gehrig was a dean’s list student at Bowling Green, and is now earning a graduate degree at Alabama.

In short, Dieter was Alabama’s kind of player.

Derek and Gehrig powerlifting. Photos (C) and courtesy of Derek Dieter. Thanks, Dad!

As a player at Washington (IN) high school, just in the shadow of Notre Dame and Touchdown Jesus, Dieter had a sterling career, attracting the interest of schools throughout the country. He set an Indiana state record with 373 receiving yards. Followed by another 300-yard effort, he then did something very special, setting the national single-game receiving record with 437 yards on just 12 catches.

For his career, Dieter was “named Indiana’s 4A player of the year in 2011 after catching 81 passes for 2,171 yards — the fourth-highest total in the nation and 24 touchdowns...He also holds Indiana state records for most receiving yards in a career (4,326), a season (2,171), and in a 4A State playoff game (168) as well as for TDs in a career (49).”

While he was listed as just a three-star wide out, schools paid attention to his production, size, good hands and excellent route skills. He attracted the attention of programs across the country. However, it was into the open arms of June Jones, and the offense-friendly run-and-shoot, that Gehrig chose.

Dieter with his family. Gehrig is number 4.
Derek Dieter

In 2012, Dieter began his career in SMU’s wide open offense, notching 10 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. However, after committing to the Mustangs, his position coach left SMU, and Dieter grew unhappy. He transferred closer to home, at Bowling Green, a school that had courted him since his sophomore year of high school (and Dieter’s original first choice.) After sitting out a year, when Dieter finally got back on the field, his production was immediate — and it would improve every year with Bowling Green.

As a redshirt sophomore with the Falcons, Gehrig tallied 35 catches for 460 yards and a score. But, Dieter really broke out as a RS Junior, hauling in 94 passes for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns last season for the MAC champion Falcons. His 94 receptions were third in the MAC, while his 10 touchdown catches were tied for fourth-best in the conference. He was recognized for his season by MAC coaches, being named to the all-conference second team. His teammates noted his soft hands, his technical skills as a wide receiver, and above all his leadership with the Falcons receiving corps.

While earning his degree at Bowling Green, Dieter would be part of three MAC East title teams, winning two championships — as a redshirt in 2013 and again in 2015.

Derek Dieter

Nolan Dieter (QB) and Gehrig (WR4.)

Despite his success in the MAC, following the departure of Falcons’ head coach Dino Babers to Syracuse, Dieter decided it was time to move on. It was time for new challenges, to hone his skills with the best team in America, and to compete against some of the very best that college football has to offer.

Fortunate for all parties involved, Dieter had already caught the eye of the Alabama coaching staff following his standout 133-yard performance versus the Tennessee Volunteers last season. And, to his credit, despite the depth chart, Dieter’s competitiveness and skill led him to Tuscaloosa where he did not shy away from trying to earn a starting spot.

At Alabama, Dieter had a somewhat rocky first few games (as did most of the wide receiving corps,) while the Tide adjusted to a new offensive scheme helmed by a dark horse true freshman quarterback that completely changed the playbook. Among the early inconsistencies were a few missed blocks. But, Dieter quickly settled in, developed cohesion and rapport with Hurts, gained familiarity with the playbook, and found his role in the offense en route to Alabama’s 2016 SEC title run (and beyond.)

While Dieter’s raw production has naturally tailed off from Babers’ and Jones’ offenses, it has been nice to see Gehrig’s growth as a wideout. Lane Kiffin has featured Dieter in the slot and on the outside. His tree is more complete than at BGSU, allowing him to showcase his route-running and athleticism. But where he has grown the most as a player is in his blocking ability. Dieter always had the size and physicality to beat the jam and to help with the screen game, that was clear. However, as the offense has moved to the power spread, he has turned those skills to the run game, where he has grown into a very capable, even devastating blocker at times.

He will forever be remembered in Alabama lore for one play in particular:

It is that attention to little things, his competitiveness, the selflessness and buying-in, that have made Dieter popular. They are, in fact, the same things that led to him being named a 2016 Pat Trammell Award winner for exemplary senior leadership. The award is given to “an outstanding Alabama football player who demonstrates the qualities of Integrity, Character, Importance of Academics and Inspirational Leadership that are representative of Trammell himself.”

Dieter has at least one more game at the Capstone, but for the season he has hauled in 14 passes for 204 yards, four touchdowns, and a highlight reel moment versus Tennessee. Gehrig Dieter is listed as the 33rd best wide receiver among eligible players, and projects to be on the cusp of a low round draft pick. His Senior Bowl, Pro Day and Combine performances will be critical to his draft stock; he already has the acrobatic catches and much-improved blocking on tape.

And he always has an excellent education and his natural leadership to fall back upon.

Roll Tide, and best of luck, Gehrig.

Ed. Note: Gehrig earned his bachelor’s in Sport Management from Bowling Green State University, and is presently earning his Masters in Financial Planning at the University of Alabama.

Also, it should be noted that besides pitching in with 23 lovely chromosomes, Gehrig’s mom, Suzy Dieter, is a fine athlete in her own right — she was a college basketball player, so his was an upbringing of athleticism and competitiveness.