Saskatchewan Roughriders

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 him.

“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 win.”

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 coach.

 

Former Dolphins 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 thing.”

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.”