Dunlap on Rivers: “I’m His Bodyguard”
General Manager Tom Telesco has made no bones about it – King Dunlap was the best left tackle on the market, thus it was a no brainer to bring the popular lineman back into the fold.
The Chargers and Dunlap agreed to terms on a new four-year contract last Friday in a move that was widely praised and lauded throughout the entire NFL.
“I’m very excited and I love being a Charger,” Dunlap said. “I love the guys on this team. It’s a great city and a great place, so I’m very excited to be back. It was very important to get it done early and out of the way. It means a lot knowing how much this team values me. Hearing what my coaches and teammates have said means a lot as both a player and a person. It motivates me to play hard to the best of my ability. I’ve been working hard every year, and I’m going to work even harder to prove the contract I just got.”
It’s been a remarkable two seasons for number 77, who arrived in San Diego nearly two years ago to little fanfare. Dunlap acknowledges that his arrival didn’t make waves as most assumed he was signed only to provide depth along the offensive line. However, the 6-9, 330-pounder had other ideas and capitalized on it.
“(Two years ago) was a great opportunity, and I know when I signed it looked like I was coming in to be the swing tackle, but I came in with the mentality of being the starter. That is what I worked toward. That was my goal, and that is what happened. I’ve always worked to be a starter, even when I was in Philly. That was the mentality I’ve had and the mentality I will keep working with. That has been successful for me.”
Dunlap took the reins to become an integral part of the Bolts offense. Telesco explained what the front office saw in the left tackle two years ago, but really emphasized how Dunlap seized his opportunity to make the most of it.
“It’s kind of three pronged,” he said. “Our scouting staff did a great job identifying him. He’s 6-9 with really good feet. There aren’t that many players that can pass protect with his type of length, size and feet. You saw that when he was in Philadelphia as a part time starter and role player. Then he came to our place and the coaches did a really great job developing him. Joe D’Alessandris and Andrew Dees did a great job working with him the past two years. And then most importantly, King himself took his opportunity and seized it. He came in and played really, really good football for us.”
He certainly has as Dunlap was named Lineman of the Year last season after starting all 16 games for the first time in his career. He was a stabilizing force on a line ravaged by injuries, protecting Philip Rivers’ blindside as he completed a team-record 379 passes while throwing for 4,386 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2014. Being named Lineman of the Year is an honor Dunlap doesn’t take lightly.
“That was the greatest award I’ve gotten in my athletic career,” he said. “I’ve been named all state and Mr. Football in high school, and all state in basketball and a few high school honors, but to receive that from my teammates and the organization is a great feeling. It’s also more motivation for me to work harder. I look at it all as motivation. It is a blessing and a great thing, and what more could you want as a lineman and a teammate than to be voted Lineman of the Year?”
No one has vocally endorsed Dunlap more than the man he’s tasked with protecting. Rivers has passionately supported his left tackle since the moment he arrived in San Diego, never more so than when pushing for number 77 to make the Pro Bowl last December. That’s why he was ecstatic to hear Dunlap would be returning in 2015.
“King has been top notch the last few years for us at left tackle,” he said. “It’s very well-deserved for him personally and a huge signing for our team.”
Protecting Rivers is a task Dunlap takes very seriously, and he credits his QB for making him the player he’s become.
“It’s awesome to protect Philip,” Dunlap added. “When you have such an elite quarterback, you want to keep him protected so he can do his job. Clearly it shows when we keep him protected, he’s proven he can carve up any defense and pick it apart. With the weapons we have, the longer we can keep him standing and clean in the pocket, the better we’ll be and more damage we’ll do. It’s great to have him backing me up and having my back. As his left tackle, I’m his bodyguard. There is no him without me and no me without him, so I look forward to the next four years protecting him.”