Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and the man that his family and friends knew as “Dinger,” were close friends and college roommates at Eastern Illinois University. Their professional careers also crisscrossed several times, when Shanahan hired Heimerdinger to his first NFL job as his wide receivers coach in Denver from 1995-99. After leaving to be the offensive coordinators for the Titans and Jets, he returned to Denver in 2007 as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Even after all that, Shanahan still owed him one.
One day during spring practice in college, Shanahan got jacked up on a play, and came back to the room throwing up blood. It was Dinger that called the ambulance for his ailing roommate.
“I did lose my kidney my senior year,” Shanahan recalled last year. “Dinger saw me throwing up in the sink and knew something was wrong. He saved my life.”
Shanahan released a statement about the death of his friend before the game, but did not address reporters on the topic until the game on Sunday. He stayed poised and professional at the podium after the game, but it was clearly still an emotional moment for him.
“Well, I think he had something to do with maybe some of those plays,” he said. “Especially some in the fourth quarter.”
Whether or not your personal sense or spirituality allows you to believe in such things, it wouldn’t be the first time that Dinger was looking out for Shanahan.
“Any time you lose a dear friend, somebody that you’ve been very close with for a very long time–especially at his age–is very tough,” Shanahan reflected. “He’s got a great family, great kids, and it’s gonna be tough. But they’re gonna make it. If you guys knew him, you’d know that we just lost a great person.”
Catch the rest of Shanahan’s post game comments below:
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