Game space

The Air Force’s ultra-powerful ground game runs on “Diesel”

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — To fuel their high-octane ground game, the Air Force Falcons rely on “Diesel” power.

It is an efficient power source measured not in MPG but in YPG – yards per game.

For years, Academy offensive linemen have had the nickname “Diesel.” They even made it their own club, complete with custom-made beige hats – a coveted cap too – and secret initiation ceremonies.

The group’s nickname has come to symbolize the courage and tenacity needed to power the Falcons’ run-centric option offense. This current offensive line — led by an aptly named center Thor — certainly propels the Falcons as they lead the nation averaging 412.2 yards per game rushing.

“Really, it’s just blue-collar going after, working,” said center Thor Paglialong, whose team hosts the Navy on Saturday to kick off the annual Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition between the academies of service. “An uncompromising mentality.”

The “Diesel” handle was adopted a few seasons ago and by pure chance. According to legend, center Christopher Mitchell was walking around the locker room and ran into tight end Lesley Dalger. He turned to Mitchell and said something like, “Whoa, watch out, Diesel.”

“We took it and ran with it,” said Scott Hattok, who was a senior offensive lineman for the Falcons in 2019 and is now a civil engineering officer for the Air Force in Washington, D.C. “C was our motto: ‘It starts with us. If we don’t have a good game ahead, we’re going to lose. So that mentality has to be brought to the training ground every day and has to be on the playing field. It has to be brought to boardrooms, to the weight room, everywhere, that blue-collar mentality, bring your lunch bucket to work.

About the hats, the ones with “Diesel” written above the brim and featuring a fuel pump handle with a drop of fuel, there’s a little urban legend quality to it.

“The story I heard was that they (offensive linemen) were at a truck stop, found a hat they liked that said ‘Diesel’ and it went from there,” said Paglialong, who won his hat last season.

Lineman Wolfgang Rehbock’s mother helped them get 20-25 embroidered Carhartt hats. But the lot didn’t last long.

Not only are guards, tackles and centers eligible to receive hats, but there are also honorary “Diesel” members who are elected by a senior council of linemen.

Last season, fullback Brad Roberts won a coveted hat. After a 41-10 victory over Colorado on Sept. 10, Roberts, who had three rushing touchdowns, made sure to wear his cover — and sing the praises of his linemen.

“Our offensive line is unreal,” said Roberts, who leads Mountain West in averaging 116.2 yards this season. “Just the power they have. We are able to run the ball so effectively just because of the forward we have.

The initiation ceremony to become a “Diesel” member is shrouded in secrecy. This is because the first rule inside the “Diesel” club is not to talk about what is happening inside the “Diesel” club.

Everything is known: the day before a match, a player about to be honored will receive an SMS and will be invited to present himself in a certain room.

They knock twice. They are let in.

“That’s all we can really talk about,” said custody of all lectures Hawk Wimmer, who graduated last season and is currently coaching at Air Force Preparatory School. “It’s not easy to win (the hat), but when you win it, it’s well respected and well deserved.”

Hattok added: “One of my most favorite memories of playing my senior year was the induction ceremonies – if that tells you anything.”

Paglialong and his “Diesel” companions perpetuate the tradition. The team is averaging 117.7 more yards than Minnesota, which is second in the nation in rushing.

That’s on top of last season, when the Air Force line became the first Five Eyes representative to be a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s top offensive line.

“It’s just a good thing,” Hattok said of the tradition. “It’s something that unites the offensive line into one. It starts with us. We are going to have a good game if we have a good game ahead. »

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