Chuck Klingbeil - Defensive Tackle - Saskatchewan
Roughriders - 1989-90
Alumni Spotlight - April 11, 2002 - Miami
Dolphins Official Site -
Klingbeil’s road to the NFL was one less traveled. After staring at
Northern Michigan, where he earned Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman
honors following his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Klingbeil drew
no interest from NFL teams. Klingbeil even earned all-conference honors
following his junior year, but the NFL stayed away. As a result, he
decided to sign as a free agent with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the
Canadian Football League. A friend of his thought it would be good for
“I had a friend who played in the CFL and that is why I went up there,”
Klingbeil said. “I guess I could have tried out as a free agent in the NFL
right away, but I just didn’t think I had the coaching coming out of
college so I stayed there for two years.”
Klingbeil hoped his $30,000-a-year job north of the border would be his
stepping stone to the NFL. He got his wish. Klingbeil helped the
Roughriders win a CFL title and in the process earned defensive Most
Valuable Player honors in Saskatchewan’s 43-40 Grey Cup victory over
Hamilton. Two seasons later, he was playing for the Miami Dolphins.
Klingbeil served mainly as a backup during his first season with the
Dolphins in 1991, but got plenty of playing time as the Dolphins played
five different people at nose tackle because of injuries. In his first NFL
start against Tampa Bay, Klingbeil recorded five tackles and his first
career sack. He finished his first NFL season with 17 tackles and a
career-high five sacks.
After the arrival of Hall of Famer Joe Greene as the Dolphins defensive
line coach in 1992, Klingbeil became a full-time starter, and the Dolphins
full-time run stopper. In 1994, Klingbeil was the anchor on the Dolphins
defensive line that set a new team record for fewest rushing yards allowed
in a season.
“I really learned a lot about the game from Joe Greene,” Klingbeil said.
He really taught me how to play the position. Before he came to Miami I
was very raw.”
“He constantly made improvement, and I thought he was very good even
before I started working with him,” Greene said, “He understood what we
were doing, what the role of the people around him was, the role he played
and how important it was.
“I think we probably depended on him more than anybody. They were all
important, but if I had to pick one spot where playing the run starts,
it’s right there with the guy who’s over the center.”
Two games rest in the back of Klingbeil’s mind today, a 16-13 victory over
Green Bay in 1991 and a 22-21 playoff loss at San Diego in 1994.
Against the Packers, Klingbeil recovered a Don Majkowski fumble in the
endzone in the fourth quarter for his first career touchdown, enabling
Shula notch his 300th career victory. The image is forever etched in his
mind because he is reminded of it every time he visits Kaleva’s restaurant
in Hancock, Mich., where photos of Klingbeil line the establishment’s
walls including one of his fumble recovery.
“That was a play I will always remember,” Klingbeil said. “It was probably
the highlight of my career because it helped Coach Shula get his 300th
At San Diego, Klingbeil saw the Dolphins take a 21-6 halftime lead only to
squander it in the second half, thus costing what Klingbeil thought was
the Dolphins best chances of going to the Super Bowl.
“That was a terrible loss because we had control of the game,” Klingbeil
said. “In the second half, we played about as bad as a team could play. We
didn’t make any plays on defense, we couldn’t move the ball on offense and
we even got tackled for a safety. I remember Dan telling us how he went to
the Super Bowl after his second year in the league and how he thought he
would be back year after year. Well, he was never able to get back. After
that loss at San Diego, I really felt for him. I really wanted to win that
game for him.
“My players ask me all the time what it was like to play with Dan Marino,”
Klingbeil added. “I tell them he was the most competitive player I have
ever seen. He was so cool in times of panic. A perfect example was the
clock play against the Jets. He was so cool, and he made the play. That
was his style, nothing but confidence.”
Three seasons after that heartbreaking playoff loss at San Diego,
Klingbeil was out of football. A shoulder injury would seal his fate. It
is a time that every player must go through in his career, and while he
would have liked to play a few seasons more, Klingbeil is grateful for the
time he did have.
“I feel my shoulder injury was my downfall,” Klingbeil said. “It still
bugs me a little bit, but not many former NFL nose tackles feel great.
Still, I have nothing but great memories. Don Shula and Joe Greene had an
impact on me, and it is something I will never forget.”
It is something he hasn’t forgotten. As a coach, he has taken a lot of
what he learned as a Dolphin and has passed it on to his players. At
times, coaching can frustrate Klingbeil, but it is something he loves to
do. One day, he hopes to return to the NFL, this time as a coach.
“I would like to think I could play again,” Klingbeil said. But, when I
walk out to practice with my players I quickly realize I can’t do it
anymore. I am still in shape and still an avid weightlifter, but I’m not
in football shape anymore. If things fall right, I could see myself
coaching in the NFL.
“Coaching does get frustrating at times because you teach these kids how
to do something, but you can’t do it for them. When they mess up, you just
have to keep teaching them. You have to be persistent.”
Persistence is what Klingbeil to the NFL the first time around as a
player, and persistence should get him back to the NFL. This time as a
defensive tackle Chuck Klingbeil still remembers his days as a member of
the Miami Dolphins. He remembers the intensity of pregame warmups. He
remembers the feeling of camaraderie with the other players. He remembers
the class in which the Dolphins ran their organization. These are feelings
that he longs for today.
Football was a part of Klingbeil’s life since high school, but it wasn’t
the only thing in his life. Growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,
in the town of Houghton, Klingbeil was a 220-pound all-state hockey
defenseman who outweighed most of his teammates by 60 pounds. That,
according to Klingbeil, is why he spent so much time in the penalty box.
In fact, he led his team in penalty minutes by a margin of three-to-one.
He wasn’t just a goon, however, he had some skill as he scored eight goals
and added 18 assists as a senior, but when the football recruiters came
calling before the hockey recruiters, he decided to play college football.
That decision would eventually lead him to the Miami Dolphins.
“The entire Miami Dolphins organization and Coach Shula are class acts,”
Klingbeil said. “Playing for the Dolphins was one of the greatest
experiences of my life. I had some of my greatest highs and some of my
greatest lows playing professional football and I wouldn’t change a
Today, Klingbeil has returned to the upper reaches of Michigan where he
grew up. He has traded in his cleats for a whistle and is the defensive
line and strength and conditioning coach for Michigan Tech, a position he
has held for four seasons. Though coaching keeps him busy, he still finds
time to follow how his former team is progressing.
“I miss game day,” Klingbeil said. “I still watch all of the Dolphins
games, and it brings back a lot of good memories. I really miss the guys I
played with and I miss the intensity of game day. There is nothing else in
life that duplicates it.”