Anyone who has spent significant time around the Utah football program knows that family isn't just a cute line to get recruits in the door. They mean it. At Utah football, family is everything.
Perhaps one of the best kept family secrets of Utah football are the Dielman’s, who have completely bought into their son JJ’s (Slick as they often call him) four year journey. His father Jeffrey, mother Carla and younger sister Cara are so invested they come up from Ahwatukee, Arizona for every home game and have their own tailgate spot on the Guardsman lot that they have occupied for the last four seasons.
The Dielmans will tell you anything you would like to know about JJ - that he doesn’t say much unless you get him around the right people, in which case he won’t shut up. If he starts a conversation with “hey pops” they immediately know everything is good on his end. He doesn’t like eating alone, so he’ll call his sister just to have some company. Or that he is super competitive and doesn’t like losing at anything- even a simple game of ping-pong.
Dielman also has a bit of a mischievous nature according to his mother, who says he would go to his sister to sign his detention slips in school. “I was warmed up for this one,” Dielman said with a laugh. “I can’t lie and say it was my mother because it was my sister for about four years of my life in middle school and beginning of high school. My sister really helped me out there a few times but then she was starting to charge me twenty bucks for every signature. She really made quite the killing because my allowance went straight to her for a few years.”
Despite all of the joking, Dielman does credit his family for his success and helping him adjust to college life in Utah. “I give my parents a lot of credit for sticking with me and helping me through it,” he said. “Not giving me an easy way out. Just saying, ‘Hey, no one said it was going to be easy, you’re going to have to grind to get where you want to be.’”
“It’s so important if not the most important thing for me,” Dielman continued. “I realize how blessed I am to have them and a lot of guys don’t have what I have. I think I take advantage of them and what they bring for me and it’s- I’m just so blessed all they do for me and my dreams. It’s like they really do everything they can to help me out. I’m really lucky.”
That same support eventually carried over to his Utah football family, where Dielman has flourished and transformed from an underweight offensive lineman that had to go to “Breakfast Club” to a potential NFL talent.
“The coaches helped me a lot and obviously the players. The players are the reason you come to this school and they are the reason that you stay here too,” Dielman said. “I have a lot of good friends and that’s really all I had at the start, a few good buddies. I wasn’t very good at football when I got here and I didn’t really like Utah when I got here, but I liked a few of the guys and it just grew, and grew, and grew. It got better, easier and more fun.”
The ups and downs all culminated for Dielman and helped him understand the best piece of advice he’s received since stepping on campus- a motto most fans are familiar with and is stamped all over the Eccles Football Facility. “Respect the process,” he said. “As cliché as that is it’s definitely respect the process.”
Being able to “respect the process” is what has earned Dielman the respect of all of his teammates and the title of captain in his senior campaign. “Like I was saying before those first few years were rough and you don’t think about being the team captain when you’re just trying to get through a lift or practice,” Dielman said honestly. “After months and then years of being here you just kind of get with it and then I’m lucky enough to be named as a captain. It’s a huge honor.”
Although Dielman takes a lot of pride in his title as captain, it’s not the Michigan born offensive lineman’s favorite memory as a Ute. “I’ve had a lot of good times here. Obviously all of the wins we’ve had here has been fun,” he said with a smile. “The first Vegas Bowl was something I had never experienced and that was just a huge party in and of itself. We beat Michigan twice. I was a closet Michigan fan before I came to Utah. I didn’t have the opportunity to go there like I wanted to when I was a kid. Going to the Big House and beating them and then taking care of them here, that was something really special for me and my family. That was really cool.”
Dielman’s family have also enjoyed their time with the Utes, whether it’s been talking to random fans or getting to know their son’s teammates and their families. It’s something they will remember long after Slick is through playing at Utah. “We’ve had a great four years and this could be a magic season,” Jeff Dielman said. “JJ thinks it is and so do a lot of those guys.”
“Some people say it goes by so fast. I don’t really feel that way at all,” Dielman said reflectively of his time playing college football. “I’ve really felt everyday of being here in Utah and all the good and bad. I’ve loved the process and I love where I am at today. It’s all been a huge blessing. I’m really happy with where I am at.”
Most of all Dielman hopes the fans remember him as a hard-hitting tough guy that they were glad was on their team and not the opposing team. “That I was a straight-edge guy, a team guy and that if they were picking teams they wouldn’t want to play against me so they would choose me on their team,” he said. “I’m a mean S.O.B and you don’t want to play against me. You want me on your team.”