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NFL: San Diego Chargers Offensive Guard Dan Feeney on His Way to Strong Career
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13 Jun 2018 07:05 PM EST

-by Evan McShane, Contributing Writer; Image: San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Dan Feeney. (Image Source: John Hefti/AP Photo)

Bloomington, IN— When the Hoosiers inked offensive lineman Dan Feeney as a member of their 2012 recruiting class, they knew they had a special player. Feeney would finish his Indiana career a step above special.

He attended Carl Sandburg High School and was ranked the 82nd best offensive tackle in the country by 247 Sports. The Chicagoland native was a rock in college, starting in 46 games during his tenure at IU. Feeney anchored an Indiana offensive line that paved the way for some of the most prolific offenses in school history. He played a vital role in the success of Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard, Nate Sudfeld, and more. Feeney allowed just two sacks in 3,355 snaps throughout his entire career in Bloomington. A remarkable statistic and a testament to his dedication to consistency.

As a true freshman, Feeney did not surrender a single sack while Indiana led the Big Ten in passing offense. Unfortunately, Feeney sustained a season-ending foot injury during summer camp in 2013. He was granted a medical redshirt, which guaranteed him three more college seasons – all of which would prove to be beneficial for his development. He fought through rehab and returned the following preseason better than ever. As a sophomore, Feeney surrendered just one sack while IU set a program record for rushing yards in a season with 3,163, as Coleman became just the 18th player in FBS history to rush for over 2,000 yards, also a school record.

With the injury behind him and two full seasons of Big Ten football under his belt, Feeney was poised to become a star offensive lineman as an upperclassman. Again, he delivered.

Feeney became a team captain and vocal leader during his final two years at Indiana. As a junior in 2015, Feeney bulldozed defenders, allowing IU to produce a 3,500 passer (Nate Sudfeld), two 1,000-yard running backs (Jordan Howard and Devine Redding), and a 1,000-yard receiver (Simmie Cobbs). The 2015 Hoosiers became one of just four teams in college football history to accomplish such a feat. Feeney didn’t allow a sack and was named a unanimous First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten.

He followed that up with a senior season that didn’t disappoint as he allowed just one sack and saw Redding again run for over 1,000 yards. Feeney helped Redding become the fourth IU running back to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He only committed ten penalties in 46 total games at Indiana. When his senior campaign came to a close, Feeney was again named a First Team All-American as well as First Team All-Big Ten. Feeney is just the third IU football player to earn First Team All-American honors in back-to-back seasons.

Feeney was built for the NFL. Due to his discipline, durability, and elite athleticism, he was recognized as the top guard in the country by Phil Steele, USA Today, and 247 Sports. Feeney was bestowed with superb footwork for a man of his size. He was a letter-winner in volleyball during high school. Most outlets pegged Feeney as a lock to be drafted in the first three rounds. Some mock drafts had Feeney being selected in the first round based on his versatility, consistency, and readiness to play right away. Perhaps some NFL scouts and talent evaluators were steered away from the concussion he sustained during his senior year that caused him to miss a few games. The Cleveland Browns even tested Feeney’s cognition with card tricks. A few pro football scouts also felt teams would seek linemen with more size. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Chargers selected Feeney toward the front end of the third-round (71st overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Feeney walked into a Chargers team that had just moved to Los Angeles from San Diego. The franchise has an upper-tier quarterback in Philip Rivers and a solid offensive line, starring two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung. Los Angeles also has promising young weapons in running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Chargers clearly wanted to bolster their offensive line – they also drafted Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forest Lamp in the second round of the 2017 draft. He had a strong preseason and solidified his spot as a backup right guard for Kenny Wiggins. Feeney flashed his versatility all summer long with Los Angeles, serving as backup center as well.

Everything changed for Dan Feeney in late October when starting left guard Matt Slauson was lost for the season due to a biceps injury. Feeney again proved how flexible he is by immediately stepping in and taking over Slauson’s starting spot. Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn was obviously disheartened to lose Slauson, but he knew Feeney wouldn’t let the offense miss a beat.

"As a young guy with all the communication, recognizing the stunts and blitzes, he's come light years in his pass protection," Lynn told the LA Times. "In the run game, he was good from Day 1 in my opinion. That's why we drafted him. But in the passing game, that's where he's made his big leaps."

The Chargers coach made it seem as if Feeney would fill anyone’s shoes on the offensive line, regardless of position.

"I have a lot of confidence in Dan," Lynn said. "Dan's been growing like a weed, and he's ready. We knew that if something happened, that he could step in and fill that role."

Feeney had the benefit of studying Slauson and the rest of the Chargers’ offensive line. He took his time in a backup role to absorb as much information as possible and prepare himself for when his time came. Okung had nothing but good things to say about Feeney and loads of confidence in the young lineman.

"We've been preparing Feeney," Okung said. "Matt's been preparing Feeney since minicamp and OTAs. Expectations are high in our room, and we're going to help him as he comes into this process. I'm very hurt by Matt not being able to play. His presence in our room is amazing. But Feeney is a guy who has watched everything Matt has done every second of every day."

Feeney met those expectations, and in many cases, far exceeded them. He was a monster blocker in the run game and surrendered just one sack after taking over the starting job in Week 8. Los Angeles had a 6-3 record the rest of the season.

Feeney spoke to chargers.com about being thrust into a starting role and how vital his teammates have been in mentoring him.

“As a rookie coming in, you obviously want to help the team as much as you can,” the rookie guard explained. “When Matt (Slauson) went down, it was definitely tough. But, I had big shoes to fill. I was trying to get in there, protect Phil (Rivers), make some holes for Melvin (Gordon) and do what I can. Matt, Kenny (Wiggins) and Russell (Okung) have been great leaders and they’ve definitely helped me step up into the role with ease.”

He also described the adjustment from college football to the NFL.

“Coming from college to here, (you think,) ‘Okay, it’s a step up,’” Feeney said. “But then you get here and it’s all football, all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it’s a big mental step up; you’re reading blitzes, you’ve got to see techniques. There are other guys you pretty much become a stalker of because you need to see what they’re doing.”

Feeney was recognized league wide for his first-year performance. Despite sitting on the bench for half the season, Feeney was named to the 2017 All-Rookie Team by NFL.com. NFL senior analyst Gil Brandt wrote that Feeney has the potential to be a Pro Bowl offensive lineman someday. The future is extremely bright for this former Hoosier. He won’t be racking up stats or scoring touchdowns, but he’ll be the reason other guys are. All signs point toward Dan Feeney having a long, successful NFL career.

To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.

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