Suburban Sports Reunion: Colts' Diem lining up his options
Ryan Diem owns a Super Bowl ring for his work as the Indianapolis Colts' starting right tackle, but he doesn't believe it symbolizes the finest moment of his 10-year NFL career.
The 1997 Glenbard North High School graduate has earned roughly $35 million during his career, yet spent the last several years plotting his post-football plans.
The 2001 Northern Illinois graduate makes his home in Indiana, but never hesitates to come home to the Chicago suburbs to help others whenever possible.
Yep, Diem failed to memorize the NFL manual on how to act like a stereotypical player.
Actually, judging by the number of NFL players that showed up May 2 at Boulder Ridge Country Club to support Diem's Allie and Friends Golf Classic, we might need to adjust our stereotypes.
At least 10 current and former Colts -- as well as several ex-Bears such as Otis Wilson and ex-Blackhawks such as Denis Savard and Stan Mikita -- made it to the Lake in the Hills course to help raise more than $110,000 for the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation (CNCF).
Since Diem and his wife, Julie, agreed six years ago to put their name and their time into the Allie and Friends Golf Classic, the event has raised nearly $900,000.
"He's been a wonderful asset to us," said Pat Tallungan, the CNCF founder whose son Nick lost his fight to neuroblastoma a few years before he would have attended Glenbard North.
While Diem's NFL connections have played an important role in the event (Peyton Manning showed up to play one year and provided an autographed jersey this year), the big fun comes during dinner when the Carol Stream native and his buddies battle during the live auction.
This year's auction featured an autographed Derrick Rose jersey (which went for $2,500) and an autographed Jonathan Toews stick. And Tallungun is among the many who love to watch the byplay when Diem's teammates make him dig deep to win his favorite things.
"In years past, there have been a few items I've eyed and they've taken note of that," Diem said with a smile. "We like to bid things up on each other, kind of build it up into something that's maybe costing a little more than its worth, but it's fun. It's all for charity, so we have fun with it. The guys are very generous."
Several of the guys who showed up at Boulder Ridge, including All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark, have played alongside Diem for some of the greatest moments in Indianapolis Colts history.
Remember when the Bears lost Super Bowl XLI? Diem started for the victorious Colts, yet he doesn't count that game as the highlight of his career.
"The Super Bowl was definitely a close second to winning the AFC championship that year," Diem said. "Beating the Patriots in that AFC championship game to go to the Super Bowl was, honestly, I think that was the best game we ever played. We were way behind (down 21-6 at halftime before winning 38-34). To get (past) the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl was really special.
"Winning the Super Bowl was incredible. And being on the field with my family was totally surreal, celebrating with them. But getting to the Super Bowl -- purely football-wise -- was the best experience."
Diem, who boasts 139 regular-season and 15 playoff starts on his resume, has one more season on his seven-year contract. He feels good after fracturing two vertebrae in his back last season, which forced him to sit out a playoff loss.
"I got speared in the last regular-season game right in the lower back," Diem said. "I hope to play my contract out in Indy and maybe more. We'll see what happens."
But Diem turns 32 on July 1 and the Colts grabbed Lake Zurich's Anthony Castonzo, an offensive tackle, in the first round of the NFL draft.
"I hope the best for him. I hope he's not taking my job," Diem said with a laugh. "Hey, you know what? It happens every year. There's always someone younger and less-expensive to try to take over. It's no surprise."
With that in mind Diem, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Northern Illinois, has spent recent years establishing himself in the business world.
While attending an engagement party for longtime Glenbard North buddy Brian Schwartz in 2007, Diem reconnected with an NIU engineering school buddy who happened to be Schwartz' cousin.
Justin Meyers, an Addison Trail graduate, had dreamed of opening a shop for gear heads since he was 14.
"I did not know it was Ryan's dream, too," Meyers said. "We just happened to connect at the right time."
Diem and Meyers are the co-owners of modern muscle, a 10,000-square-foot shop in Oswego devoted to building engines or anything else that a speed enthusiast desires.
Their business has grown so quickly -- Meyers says clients from Texas, California and the East Coast have shipped their cars to Oswego -- modern muscle wants to move into a shop three times bigger than the current one.
"I'm not trying to be just Chicagoland's best speed shop," Meyers said. "I want to be America's best speed shop. That's what we want."
"He's done a great job," Diem said. "It's a hobby for me and a passion. It's something I look forward to being more of a part of after football."
But Diem hasn't put all of his investment capital into modern muscle. He's a vice president for CloudOne, a Naperville-based technology software company.
In short, he has plenty to do when he's no longer protecting Manning -- and he plans to do it in the suburbs.
"Indy is a really easy town to love," Diem said. "Super convenient. It's a scaled-down Chicago. You've got every steakhouse you can think of within 20 minutes. We do love it down there, but I think our family and friends will bring us back to Chicago."
•Lindsey's Suburban Sports Reunion column will appear Tuesdays in the Daily Herald. If there's a former suburban athlete or coach you'd like to know more about, contact Lindsey at email@example.com.