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Falcon Crest - Dahl soars in Atlanta

By Steve Ranson == Monday, November 24, 2008

Fallon's Harvey Dahl has found himself a home in Atlanta this season. No longer does the former Greenwave player watch from the sidelines. He watches the game from the trenches as the Falcons' starting right guard.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Like the ancient Roman coliseum before it, Oakland’s mammoth labyrinth of concrete passages wind underneath the stadium. Only yards away from the field inside one of the tunnels, football players — modern-day gladiators — filed into the locker room, some taking their time, others rushing into the small room to shower, dress and head to the team bus.

At the end of the crowded locker room filled with almost 100 players, team officials and reporters, Fallon’s Harvey Dahl sat on a narrow bench, hunched over with both arms on his knees, his gray T-shirt drenched with sweat around the collar and arm holes, his forehead still drippng with beads of perspiration.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Dahl had finished another day at the office, that as an offensive lineman for the rejuvenated Atlanta Falcons, one of this year’s surprise teams in the NFL. The former Fallon all-league, all-state football player and all-state wrestler didn’t know what to expect when this season began with summer training camp. Almost 13 months ago, Dahl had been a member of the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad with hopes earning a spot on the roster fading.

Then, came a whirlwind 24 hours for Dahl in mid-October 2007. The Falcons initiated a trade for Dahl with the 49ers, and the Fallon native was headed to Georgia within 24 hours. In what appeared to be a setback for Dahl has, instead, turned into a jackpot for him.

A good fit for Dahl

“It’s going real good. We came out with a big win,” the 26-year-old guard said after the Falcons invaded the Raiders’ turf and secured a convincing 27-0 victory against Oakland.

Dahl said the trade has been “a blessing in disguise.” Gone are the uncertainties of being on the 49ers’ roster. Instead, Dahl fought for a starting position last summer and emerged as the Falcons top right guard.

That desire did not surprise Paul Boudreau, the Falcons’ offensive line coach.

“Harvey has made a lot of improvements because he earned the starting job,” Boudreau said. “He’s learning how to play in the National Football League. He is going through a regular season and through the pre-season. He has learned a lot about himself and a lot about the defense than when he first started out.”

Something was lacking in San Francisco.

Dahl kept fighting for a starting position, but he couldn’t budge from his No. 3 spot on the depth chart. The 49ers thought highly of Dahl, though, and had him play in the NFL’s Europe League for a season where he gained invaluable experience.

During the spring draft, however, the 49ers drafted a top offensive lineman, and Dahl saw his chances to keep a roster position on the team diminish. His hunch proved correct. Come August, the 49ers cut him from the 53-man squad, but they signed him to a contract to play on their practice squad.

Dahl considers those days in San Francisco as history. Today, life couldn’t be better in Atlanta.

“We have a good thing here ... good chemistry, the O-line plays well, and everyone wants to win,” Dahl explained.

Turning Atlanta around

And Dahl, at the age of 27, has become part of Atlanta’s youth movement to turn the Falcons into a contender in the NFL South.

“He came here with a whole new coaching staff,” Boudreau pointed out. “The thing for him is he got an opportunity. I can’t speak for the coaches at the other teams he has been a part of, but it happens around the league. You have invested a lot of money in first, second or third draft choices, and you are not going to get a lot of reps for that free agent.”

Support from his teammates has also been important to Dahl.

Running back Michael Turner credits the offensive line for his success this season, and especially Dahl on the right side.

“He keeps improving, and that comes from experience and getting better each week,” Turner said, standing before his open locker. “Harvey opens up those holes and does a great job up front.”

Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan said he has been blessed with a great offensive line.

“We come out each week, very balanced,” he said, explaining how the offensive line opens up holes for the runners and provides solid pass blocking for the quarterback.

Ryan said the offensive line, from tackle to tackle, has created holes and played physical, game after game.

“Our two guards — Justin (Blalock) and Harvey — are very physical. We have a great running game with them pulling, and they’re good with their pass blocking,” Ryan added.

Boudreau agrees.

“His whole attitude is to play until the end of the whistle. In training camp, he was playing a little over the edge and maybe after the whistle. We didn’t discourage that a whole lot because we wanted to establish something as a group. There were a couple of signs up in the stands that called the offensive line the ‘nasty boys.’ He’s kind of the poster boy of that way of playing. If you line up against him, it’s just going to be an all-day sucker. We are trying to have all five guys do the same.”

Rooting for Harvey

Although many of Dahl’s friends and family didn’t see him play in Oakland, one of the Reno area’s most successful football coaches did.

Rollins Stallworth, Hug High School’s football coach, recollects when Dahl played against the Reno school in the 1990s and how his backs avoided the Fallon guard.

“I remember most about him is how we ran away from him. We went after the other guy,” Stallworth said, cracking a big smile.

While Dahl was “the enemy” in high school, Stallworth rooted for him when the offensive lineman played for the University of Nevada. Now, Stallworth has a bigger reason to holler his support for Dahl. Stallworth’s favorite NFL team is Atlanta.

“To play for my team is special,” Stallworth said. “I had a teammate of mine (in college), Eric Sanders, in the late 70s who played with the Falcons.”

Now, the Hug coach said it’s amazing to see Dahl’s progress.

“He’s playing on a team in the top five rushing offense in the league,” Stallworth said. “He’s opening up huge holes.”

Chris Klenakis, a Fallon native who coached the Greenwave in the 1980s, recruited Dahl to the Wolf Pack as an assistant coach in the late 1990s.

“I am extra, extra proud of Harvey,” Klenakis said. “I can’t put into words how proud I am of him.”

Klenakis said he tries to keep updated on Dahl’s progress, and he likes what he sees.

“Harvey has adjusted to the speed of the game (in the NFL),” Klenakis said. “He has improved his pass protection technique.”

Klenakis said Dahl’s experience as a wrestler has also helped his game.

“I always love O-linemen who wrestle because they have good leverage,” Klenakis said.

Dahl said he speaks to his sister, Rachel, at least once a week.

Rachel knows how important his career means to him in Atlanta.

“It’s awesome. We’re super happy for him,” she said.

Until he earned a spot on the Falcons, Rachel said her brother felt as though he hadn’t made it in the NFL. That has changed since he plays most of the game on offense. She wants to see him play next month in San Diego, but her parents have both flown to Atlanta to see him play.

Although Harvey Dahl looks menacing on the line, his older sister knows better.

“He looks so big and mean, but we know the real Harvey,” she laughed. “He’s just a big teddy bear.”

Seems like he is doing pretty good and will only get better...this is good news.

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honestly, at the begining of the season and especially after the O-line was dominated by carolina and tampa the 1st time around. I was looking for upgrades along the line. All sorts of possibilities. I like Clabo moved to RG, and draft a RT, or draft RG and keep Clabo at RT. Also look for a replacement in the next yr or so for McClure. But I have to say, I have seen improvement from Dahl and the line(minus LT of course). I'm starting to re-evaluate draft needs concerning the Line. I think Foster coming back will be a great backup at LT and RT. very very interesting season indeed

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