Just To Be Asking: Ken Dilger & Bob Clayton

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer tight end Ken Dilger, who played football at Heritage Hills, waved to the Patriot student section as he walked into the gym with former Heritage Hills football coach Bob Clayton before Friday’s basketball game against Forest Park in Lincoln City. In commemoration of the 50th Super Bowl this year, the NFL created special-edition golden footballs for the high schools of any player or coach of a winning Super Bowl team. Heritage Hills received one of the footballs in recognition of Dilger and his Super Bowl title with the Bucs in 2002-03. Dilger played for the Bucs for three years and for the Colts for seven years.

Two famous faces of Heritage Hills football returned to the school Friday, as 1989 graduate Ken Dilger presented Heritage Hills a golden football that the NFL gave all former Super Bowl champs to commemorate the 50th Super Bowl this year. Dilger presented the ball to former Patriot coach Bob Clayton, who still lives nearby in Santa Claus yet has taken a back seat with football since he retired from coaching in 2011.

KEN DILGER

I can only imagine how special it must feel to come back here, and for this experience — a golden ball for one of Heritage Hills’ golden boys — what’s this like for you?
(laughs) You know, it’s always fun to come back. I spent a lot of good time here as a student and you get to meet so many great people here, from teachers to coaches to people in the community. And my parents still live here (in Mariah Hill), my brothers still live here, it’s always fun to come back. I come back about three or four times a year and I always make it a point to see as many people as I can, and come back to the high school, which I haven’t been back in a while, and see a lot of friendly faces. It brings back a lot of memories.

I imagine so. And you’re still up in Indianapolis?
Still in Indy, in Carmel.

How’s life up in Carmel?
You know what, it’s good. I’ve got two kids; I’ve got a daughter who’s 16 and playing soccer and a son who’s 13 and playing football and basketball, so it’s a busy part of our lives.

So we’ve got two future Carmel Greyhounds?
Yup, my daughter is (already at the high school) and my son is a seventh-grader, so he’s a couple years away. But he’ll eventually get there.

And yourself, managing to stay busy?
Yeah, I coached seventh-grade football last year for my son, for the middle school — Jeez, Troy! (Heritage Hills assistant coach Troy Fischer drops golden ball while placing trophy on auditorium stage) — and I do the Colts’ pregame show for WISH-TV, Channel 8, and I am in the financial world. I do residential commercial lending.

Safe to say you stay busy. I’ve got to confess, I was stalking your Twitter a bit and saw someone posted a photo of your wife’s banana bread. As far as staying in shape, that’s probably the worst thing to be around constantly.
You know, she’s been baking that for, God, a long, long time. And usually just for us and friends who would say, “Hey, can you bake me some?” for birthdays or whatever. And so, people loved it. People raved about it. And this last year, one of her friends said, “All right, you’ve got to start making this.” And they’d been bugging her for probably four or five years and so one of her friends, kind of on her own, created the logo, created the name (Heidi Ho’s Baked Goods) and so I went out and bought all the packaging and since Dec. 1, she’s been baking it and selling it and she’s actually in a retail spot now, too.

That’s awesome. And are you the taste-tester? How do you work into this plan?
I clean up after her. (laughs) That’s my role: Clean up when I can.

Going back to football, you’ve got the seventh-grade team but then you’ve also got Colts coverage. Is it neat seeing all facets of the game in that way?
It is, and I’ve been coaching my son ever since second-grade football. So you see that part of it, you see the transition of the kids, the transition of the game as far as the concussion protocol and what they’re trying to do with the young kids. And in the NFL, talking about the Colts every week and what they’re doing, whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s coaches or GM, stuff like that, so you see anywhere from seventh grade up to the professional level.

And now you’re back in Lincoln City. Seeing the team, what kinds of emotions does that bring out?
It brings back a lot of memories. You know, 27, 28 years ago, I was part of this Patriot group and didn’t really know what was going on and was just kind of biding my time being the student-athlete and just never knowing what’s going to happen to you after you graduate.

BOB CLAYTON

After stepping down from the program, you’ve kind of taken a back seat. Was that the intent from the beginning once you called it quits?
Yeah, it really was. I think when you’re ready to get out, you should get out. You can’t linger, you can’t be a hanger-on and be a shadow over these new guys. I’ve seen other programs do that. I don’t think that’s right. They send me the film on the computer and I watch it. If I’m invited, I’ll come to the games, but I wasn’t going to be casting this shadow. They needed to do their own thing and know that I was cutting it loose. And I have to know that too, for myself. It was important that I moved on, got a new life going, got new interests, new things going on, and I feel like that’s the way a guy should do that when he retires. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s worked well for, I think, both of us (he and current coach Todd Wilkerson) in our situations.

Either way, Todd was definitely stepping into big shoes. And those first two years (team went 5-5 in 2012 and 2-8 in 2013), he kind of got some flak for that. From your perspective, was it nice to see the turnaround in that third year (finished 12-2, reached semistate) as sort of validation for Todd?
Definitely. Todd and I (have) met before every season and after every season, and after the first season, my message to him was, “Look, you’ve got to stop being Todd Wilkerson. We want our players to flip a switch, you’ve got to flip a switch. You’ve got to coach like your job is on the line.” And he did. And they had a great, successful year and I was so glad and relieved to see them perform, because if you could pick and choose who to turn your program over to, he’d be one of the top ones you’d want to have have it. So yeah, it was tough there, touch and go for a while, but he did mentally flip a switch. He got tougher with these kids, and it shows.

By the same token, I’m sure there are some things that you miss. What do you miss most about coaching?
Oh there’s no question I miss the kids, I miss the coaching staff, the camaraderie that we always had as coaches. I think that shows now. The history of our program with guys like Ken and all these guys coming back, because I stay in touch with all of those guys. All of us has-beens stay in touch. I do miss that part of it. You know, Ken stays at my house or I stay with him, go to a few Bears games every now and then. But I miss part of this, but when it’s time to move on — we worked hard for 34 years, man, I’ll tell you what. And we were consistent in what we did. And you know when it’s time, when you don’t have that energy anymore.

And a lot of people, I’m sure, maybe refuse to admit that after 30-plus years.
I think a lot of people hang on too long. I was fortunate. I was so lucky. I got to go out the way I wanted to go out. A lot of guys don’t, you know? They get told. (laughs)

You mentioned this post-football life after coaching. Take us through a day or week in the life of Bob Clayton at this point.
(laughs) Oh, you know, I’ve actually been traveling a lot and I’ve been doing a lot of speaking to different corporations and companies and things like that — motivational, leadership-type thing, that kind of thing. That’s starting to pick up and work out well. But my wife and I travel a lot. We are active hikers, kayakers, we go out West a lot and camp and hike out there. That’s the life we love right there.

That’s not bad. Almost a complete juxtaposition from the intensity on a sideline.
Oh, very much so.

And seeing Ken back here today. The golden boy giving the golden ball. What do you make of the ceremony tonight?
Well, you know, I’ve always been proud of Ken. He’s brought this whole community so much pride. And to be an All-Pro and Super Bowl champ is extremely rare. Most guys don’t make it to the NFL, much less to play 10 years, be an All-Pro and win a Super Bowl. And I’ll tell you what, he’s such a regular guy. Ken and I have been very close friends for a lot of years. He helped me build my house, and we talk quite a bit. He’s just one of those kind of guys that hasn’t forgot where he came from. He’s always willing to give back.

Interviews by Joe Jasinski




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