"We lost, but Christian DiLauro looked great today. He's just a freshman, but I think he plays in the NFL some day."
"No way - it takes a lot to play in the NFL. We've had a lot of great linemen who have never even sniffed the NFL."
"Want to bet that he makes it to the NFL?"
This was December 26th, 2014. Actually, it was around 2:00 in the morning, so it was December 27th, 2014. Seven years ago, Carmen and I made this bet. A bet that Illini offensive tackle Christian DiLauro would play in the NFL. The bet was finalized last night.
I've mentioned my friend Carmen before. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I've stopped saying "my friend Carmen" and I just say "Carmen" now. 1999 MicronPC.com Bowl? I went with Carmen. Impromptu trip to Illinois-Ohio State basketball in March of 2020? Went with Carmen. Guy who was all bitter about Iowa City in the From The Stands three weeks ago? Carmen.
Guy sitting with me at some restaurant called WingBucket in Dallas right after the Heart Of Dallas Bowl making the DiLauro bet? Carmen. I wrote about the bet a few days later in a post I called Meeting Minutes. The five of us (me + Carmen, Brian, Craig, and Steve) sat there solving all of Illini football's problems. Here's what I wrote about the bet at the time:
I think most of us felt better about the defense next year than the offense. Brian said the words "BUT WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THE OFFENSIVE LINE??" about 15 times. Great arms at quarterback, really solid senior tailback, three great receivers, and huge question marks all across the line (including the tight ends). From the center to right tackle looks great. Carmen loves Joe Spencer at center. Craig calmed everyone's nerves about Teddy Karras' knee. I bet Carmen $20 that Christian DiLauro would play in the NFL some day.
After that, we decided that $20 was a lame bet. It needed to be a thing. So we decided to make it a steak dinner. And we also decided to draw the line at "one snap". If DiLauro was drafted but didn't make the 53-man roster, that's not "playing in the NFL." If he was on a practice squad, that wasn't "playing in the NFL." He needed to play at least one snap in the NFL. And last night.....
We'll get to that in a minute. Let's talk about the last seven years first.
First off, DiLauro was only a redshirt freshman at the Heart Of Dallas Bowl. So he had three more years of football in Champaign. It wasn't until 2018 when he had his first shot at the NFL. He went undrafted, but on May 4, 2018 - 1,330 days ago - he signed as a UDFA contract with his hometown Cleveland Browns. I talked to his dad at the time, and he was over the moon. Never dreamed he'd get his first NFL shot with the hometown team.
Christian was cut by the Browns in the final round of cuts when they went down to the 53-man roster that September, but they did sign him to the practice squad. This didn't count for the bet of course - he had to play at least one snap in a regular season game - but it looked like he was going to have a chance to stick around with the Browns. He did not. He was signed to the practice squad on September 3, 2018 and released for the practice squad the very next day. Let's pause here to talk about why.
That week is always so crazy for players trying to find a roster spot. The reason? Every other team is releasing players at the same time. Which means that every team is "wait, Johnson is now available?". They might go sign Johnson to their practice squad, but that means a player they just put on the practice squad the day before is getting released. Rough, rough business.
I'm guessing that's what happened with DiLauro in 2018. The Browns signed him to the practice squad on the 3rd, saw a free agent hit the street on the 4th, and cleared room for that player by releasing DiLauro. Ouch.
Three weeks later, DiLauro was signed to the San Francisco 49ers practice squad. It's his first NFL month and he's been signed to a UDFA contract, released from that contract by the Browns, signed as a practice squad member by the Browns, released from the Browns' practice squad, and signed to the 49ers' practice squad. And we're nowhere near close to the end of that journey.
You want to talk about perseverance? Here you go:
- September 3, 2018 - Signed to Browns' practice squad
- September 4, 2018 - Released from Browns' practice squad
- September 26, 2018 - Signed to 49ers' practice squad
- January 2, 2019 - Signed to a "future/reserve" contract with the 49ers
- August 21, 2019 - Released by the 49ers
- August 25, 2019 - Signed by the Houston Texans
- August 30, 2019 - Released by the Houston Texans
- September 25, 2019 - Signed to the Texans' practice squad
- October 1, 2019 - Released by the Texans
- October 15, 2019 - Signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad
- December 30, 2019 - Signed by the Steelers to a future/reserve contract
- September 5, 2020 - Waived by the Steelers
- May 26, 2021 - Signed by the Tennessee Titans
- August 31, 2021 - Waived by the Titans
- August 31, 2021 - Signed to the Titans' practice squad
- September 10, 2021 - Released from the Titans' practice squad
- September 14, 2021 - Signed to the Titans' practice squad
- December 23, 2021 - Moved to the Titans active roster for their game against... the San Francisco 49ers.
Ever told someone "yet I never gave up on my dream"? Feel kinda sheepish for framing it that way now? I do. What amazing perseverance.
During that entire timeline, Carmen and I are texting about the bet. Usually in a group text. I'll give you some examples.
In 2019 when he was on the Steelers' practice squad:
In 2020 when he was waived by the Steelers and not signed to any practice squad:
When he was released by the Titans in August:
I thought it was over at that point. And then he signed to the Titans' practice squad and I still had hope. And then he was released from the Titans' practice squad ten days later and I was completely convinced that I was going to be buying Carmen a steak dinner. But apparently when arrows pierce Christian DiLauro's skin they only make him stronger. He signed with the Titans' practice squad again three days after that.
Yesterday, in another group text, I found out that DiLauro had been promoted to the Titans' active roster. The bet, which lived right on the razor's edge for the last four NFL seasons, might finally be finalized. I immediately sent the information to Carmen in the group text. And, being that there are lawyers on the group text, the conversation devolved to ways to throw the bet into question. "Was Covid envisioned when the bet was made, and if so, was this promotion to the active roster Covid-related?" Always add lawyers and other business-minded people to your group chats. If only for the entertainment.
It wasn't Covid-related, by the way. The actual transaction report is very specific about that:
In other moves today, the #Titans have:— Titans247 (@NFL_Titans247) December 23, 2021
Activated from IR:
DB Chris Jackson
Placed on Reserve/COVID-19 list:
OT Kendall Lamm
Standard Elevation from PS:
OT Christian DiLauro
COVID-19 elevations from PS:
OL Daniel Munyer
DL Kevin Strong
So now all I needed was a snap. And, oh, hey, look at #69 in this screengrab from the Titans' game-winning field goal:
Let's watch that game-winning field goal together.
Here's how I see all of this.
Christian DiLauro never gave up. He had a dream, he stuck with it across four years and five practice squads, and he made it come true last night. There he is, on the game winning field goal, with one responsibility. Prevent Charles Omenihu from blocking the field goal. He prevented Charles Omenihu from blocking the field goal. The Titans won.
I texted Christian's dad last night. I knew he'd be overjoyed and he was. He said that Christian called instead of texting to let him know he was on the active roster. The reason? He didn't want his dad to have a heart attack.
So now Carmen owes me one steak dinner. He's thinking Outback. I'm thinking Keens Steakhouse in NYC. Maybe their Porterhouse For Two just for me?
Congrats, Christian. It's so inspiring to watch someone stick with something for years until they make their lifelong dream come true. Amazing stuff. I'll send you my leftovers.
Merry Christmas to all
And to me a good steak