Yale Athletics

Just minutes after the 2020 NFL Draft concluded on Saturday, Yale’s All-American left guard Dieter Eiselen ’20 made his pro football dream come true by signing an NFL contract with the Chicago Bears.

While Eiselen had donned the Blue and White for the final time in November, his football journey was far from over, as he was picked to play in the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl in January. The game was advertised as the premier showcase for draft eligible talent, a huge honor for Eiselen and the Yale program. The standout offensive lineman made full use of the opportunity, helping his National Team squad to a 30–20 win. Despite not receiving an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine following the game, Eiselen refused to give up on his NFL hopes.

Originally set to be held in Las Vegas, the 2020 NFL Draft took place online due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and the danger of large gatherings in the current conditions. Along with the rest of the NFL hopefuls, Eiselen waited by the phone to see if he was picked.

Although he did not hear his name called during the seven rounds of the NFL Draft, Eiselen was still on the minds of management around the league. The Chicago Bears scooped Eiselen during the post-draft period dubbed the “eighth round” — a period following the draft’s completion in which many talented undrafted players are signed to contracts with teams.

This momentous move makes Eiselen the third Yale player currently in the NFL, as he joins Foye Oluokun ’17 and Jaeden Graham ’17 of the Atlanta Falcons franchise.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity and ready to seize it by any means possible,” Eiselen said. “There are no guarantees in the cutthroat business that is the NFL and my goal is to not only have it be my job but to have it become my career. I cannot wait to get to work and push my mind and body beyond its limits.”

Eiselen had a later start to football than nearly every player signed in this year’s draft. Growing up in South Africa, Eiselen was a rugby player. As he grew older, however, his interest in American football grew stronger. It didn’t take long before Eiselen began contacting numerous prep schools in the United States asking if they would be interested in taking him as a fifth-year student. Of the schools that agreed, Eiselen settled on Choate Rosemary Hall.

“I first heard of Dieter when I was enrolling at Choate Rosemary Hall where he played his first season of football, and the amount of personal growth he’s had on the field has been substantial,” linebacker and captain John Dean ’21 said. “I fully expect him to continue this growth in the NFL and couldn’t be any happier for such an awesome kid that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing so well.”

Before long, Eiselen caught the eye of several college coaches, including that of Yale’s Tony Reno. After witnessing the leadership Eiselen showcased in the 2015 NEPSAC Championship game, as well as the several developmental camps he later performed in, Reno was swayed to give him an offer.

Despite his late start, the South African entered Yale with the physical ability and athletic prowess that collegiate offensive guards dream of. Standing an intimidating 6-foot-4 and weighing 300 pounds, he made an immediate impact at the position in just his second official year of competitive football — starting five games in his very first year as a Bulldog.

Eiselen’s sophomore season marked a transition from an occasional starter to a game-changing force, as he played a massive role in running back Zane Dudek’s ’21 historic year of leading the league in every rushing and scoring category. At the end of the season, Eiselen deservedly received an All-Ivy Honorable Mention at the completion of Yale’s 9–1 championship campaign. 

While the following season was that of many ups and downs for the Blue and White, Eiselen continued his rapid development as a force to be reckoned with. In the instrumental role he played in helping Yale achieve the most prolific passing offense in the Ancient Eight, Eiselen was named Second Team All-Ivy League, Phil Steele First Team All-Ivy League, and was a recipient of the Hammer Award.

In his final season, Eiselen continued his ascendancy in the trenches, as the Elis finished the season first in total offense. For this, Eislen was named to the First Team All-Ivy squad and was picked to be a member of the AP All-American Third Team. 

“It is hard to even express how happy I am for Dieter,” quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 said. “He more than deserves this chance, and I am extremely confident that he will make the most out of it. Dieter thrives in these situations because there simply aren’t that many people out there that work as hard as he does. I know he will go far and I can’t wait to see him in action.” 

Eiselen is the fifth undrafted Eli to sign with an NFL team and the first since 2015.

Jared Fel | jared.fel@yale.edu

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu

Jared Fel currently serves as a sports staff reporter covering football, baseball, and hockey for the Yale Daily News. Originally from Ossining, New York, he is a rising junior in Saybrook College majoring in Cognitive Science.