Friday, March 17, 2023

Forgotten Superstars: Conrad Dobler

      An all-time favorite of mine passed away recently at the age of 72 in Pueblo Colorado, the self-professed "Dirtiest Player in the Game" Conrad Dobler.

Dobler had struggled with his health in recent years and his family has donated his brain to Boston University for their studies on CTE, a condition that cannot be definitely diagnosed until after death and is often linked to football players and other athletes that deal with contact injuries.

Conrad Dobler was the player that you loved if he played for your team and hated if he didn't and while his tactics on the field with his "questionable tactics" that he often referred to as "exploring a gray area"

Watching Dobler's "highlights" on the occasional NFL Films feature shows him doing one thing- anything in and outside the rulebook to keep his man from getting to the quarterback.

For all of Dobler's behavior on the field. when I would see Dobler speak, I always thought of Dobler embracing the image but not as a pure bad guy.

Instead, Dobler seemed to play the role of a Burt Reynoldsish lovable rogue that left you thinking that this was a pretty good guy that was also a rugged football player.

Dobler was selected as an All-Pro three times and was once referred to by teammate Dan Dierdorf as one of the best pass-blocking guards in the history of the game.

Dobler's feud with Merlin Olsen continued past their playing days with Olsen placing Dobler's name on a tombstone when Olsen was filming his television program "Father Murphy" as an inside joke.

Dobler once said that he caused Olsen to worry more about Dobler than about playing the game, causing Olsen to lose his poise and that's what bothered Olsen the most.

Conrad Dobler's tactics may have been questionable but you cannot deny that he made every team he played for better.

The St.Louis Cardinals won their only two division championships in their twenty-eight years when Conrad Dobler was protecting Jim Hart, the New Orleans Saints had their only .500 season in their first twenty-one seasons with Dobler, and the Buffalo Bills won a division title with Dobler on the offensive line.

After football, Dobler wrote a book "They Call Me Dirty", appeared in several Miller Beer commercials that parodied his on-field image, and would make appearances on the memorabilia show circuit, including signing a helmet in the TRS collection.

Dobler's post-football life wasn't all easy though as he would deal with the brain issues that so many players face, nine knee REPLACEMENTS ( not surgeries-replacements!). When his wife, Joy, fell out of a hammock, she would become a paraplegic requiring round-the-clock care and their combined medical costs would wipe out all of their savings.

Conrad Dobler may have been a controversial figure in football in the 1970s but he certainly was a memorable figure as well.

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