Colts GM Chris Ballard has regularly stated that his philosophy is that you build teams through the draft. That makes this time of year critical to the Colts’ long term success. So in the lead up to this year’s draft, I wanted to do something to honor some of the meaningful draft picks that the Colts have made in their time in Indianapolis. These players have helped to tell the story of the Colts franchise we love. Every day leading up to the draft, we’ll drop a story about a different player from Indianapolis Colts draft history.
Today we’re talking about Ken Dilger. As far as local guys who ended up playing tight end for the Colts, Jack Doyle is easily the first to come to mind, but he was hardly the first.
Ken Dilger graduated from Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City, Indiana. Since that is where I attended high school, I can tell you that Dilger was absolutely a local legend. A 3-sport athlete, Dilger got his start at quarterback before making a transition to tight end and becoming a 3-year starter for the University of Illinois.
Drafted 48th overall, Dilger was a solid blocker and balanced player, who made his impact felt immediately, finishing his rookie season second in receiving yards and tied for first in touchdowns with 4. Even with the drafting of Marvin Harrison in the following year, he still maintained a significant, if understandably reduced role on the offense.
Dilger has the misfortune of being sandwiched between two truly prodigious talents on this list, but his impact should not be minimized. In his 7-year stretch with the Colts he provided a reliable presence at the tight end position and amassed 3,181 receiving yards, 18 touchdowns, a 70.2% catch percentage, and even tossed a touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison.
While later players like Dallas Clark and the aforementioned Jack Doyle might have overshadowed his impact on the team, Ken Dilger was still a big part of the turnaround in Indianapolis. He played on the 1995 team that went from a Wildcard berth to being an Aaron Bailey catch away from the Super Bowl.
Dilger made one Pro Bowl in his last year with the Colts, 2001, and the All-Pro team in 1999. While he may not go down as a Colts legend the way many on this list will, Dilger was perhaps the Indianapolis Colts’ first quality tight end, and would not be the last.