Growing up in north San Diego County as the son of a former San Diego Charger, Washington State receiver C.J. Dimry always dreamed of some day playing at Qualcomm Stadium.
SAN DIEGO – Growing up in north San Diego County as the son of a former San Diego Charger, Washington State receiver C.J. Dimry always dreamed of some day playing at Qualcomm Stadium.
It’s where Dimry watched his first Super Bowl live in 2003 and where his dad, Charles Dimry – a third-generation San Diegan – played defensive back for the Chargers from 1998-99. Little C.J. was in the stands when Charles retired after his final NFL game on Jan. 1, 2000.
Now, father gets to watch his son play at a venue he used to call home. In what might be the final game of C.J.’s college career, he will finally get to play at Qualcomm Stadium with his Cougars teammates in the Holiday Bowl against Minnesota.
“Not only is it at home, but I was more excited for the warm weather and being able to have a lot of my high school friends and my family be able to go to the game. It’ll be great to have a great game there,” said C.J., a Carlsbad, Calif. native. “I’ve been a Chargers fan my whole life. I used to watch my dad play there when I was three or four, and to play where he played is pretty cool. Not many people get to do that.”
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It’s particularly gratifying for the Dimrys because of the circuitous route C.J. took to get on the field in a WSU jersey. Even though he’s a redshirt senior, Dimry has only played 10 games as a Cougar and beyond that, only has one full season of junior college playing experience.
The 6-foot-5, 201-pound receiver’s lack of reps is due in part to some bouncing around (three schools in five years), the cursed injury bug – he sat out the 2015 season with an undisclosed injury – and his relative inexperience at his position.
Dimry only began playing football in eighth grade. He started out as a defensive back and did not switch to receiver until his senior year of high school, when, at 6-foot-3, he realized he’d physically outgrown the cornerback position.
So Dimry was still a raw prospect when he got to WSU from Saddleback College in 2015.
“Things I learned in sixth grade, he learned his senior year of high school and in junior college,” WSU outside receivers coach Dave Nichol said. “But his talent is really nice. He’s a late bloomer in every sense of the word.”
C.J. grew up around football and always yearned to play the sport his father had parlayed into a 12-year NFL career. But for years Charles wouldn’t let C.J. play.
“I know the violence of the sport, and the things that are coming out now are backing up the way I felt years ago,” said Charles, referring to the increased concussion awareness that has permeated football culture in the last decade.
Charles’ own retirement in 2000 resulted from a serious neck injury he sustained during his final season.
“After that last game, I got surgery, and then when I found out what was wrong, I knew, ‘I’m done. I’m not playing any more, because I wanted to be able to play with my kids,’” Charles said.
While in the NFL, Charles also saw many of his teammates leave the league two or three years into their pro careers due to serious injuries or burnout.
So when C.J. came along – the third of six Dimry kids, and his only boy – Charles tried to shield his son against some of the worst effects of a career in football.
“Football is a precision sport, and all you need to do is learn the things at one position,” Charles said. “It doesn’t take you long – four years in high school and four years in college is plenty of time for you to get good at that position.”
Charles told C.J. he could play football in high school. To bide his time, C.J. played soccer, basketball and flag football, and turned the Dimry’s Carlsbad home into his own private gridiron.
“C.J. at 10 was running down the hallway of my house, doing a spin around my ottoman to get around and into the ‘end zone,’” says his mother Erin Dimry. “All his shake-and-bake moves come from jumping furniture around the house, not real football experience.”
The budding football player also liked to measure his growth by how high he could jump.
“We sold a house when C.J. was little and I had to go through every doorway and have a painter touch it up because across the doorway were these little handprints,” Erin says. “I could mark his growth and athletic development from the handprints (left from) slam dunking the doorways.”
C.J. constantly begged to be allowed to play football, but for years, Charles held his ground. Looking back, Erin says that probably also helped C.J. get out of his father’s shadow.
“Playing football in the town his dad grew up and where his dad went to high school was a lot,” Erin says. “I thought it’d be better if he played his own sport.”
Charles finally relented and signed C.J. up for tackle football in eighth grade. But because C.J. had started so much later than other kids his age, it took him a while to get comfortable with both football and with his body.
“I think people look at him and see a kid who’s 6-foot-5, one of the fastest guys on the team with a seven-foot wingspan, huge hands, and (the ability to) jump 40 inches in the air, they see his dad played 12 years in the NFL, and they think he probably grew up to be a football prince. That’s not the case,” Erin said. “In high school there was a perception that he was cocky. He’s actually hesitant about his ability, unsure about his potential and shy and quiet.”
C.J.’s late switch from DB to receiver, coumbined with how his high school offense didn’t pass the ball much, gave him very little film to show college recruiters. So after graduating from La Costa Canyon High in 2012, he turned down a preferred walk-on opportunity at UCLA and opted instead to go the junior college route to get more playing experience.
This year, C.J. has come along as the season has progressed. The receiver says he’s benefitted from studying Gabe Marks and has learned a lot from Nichol about how to use his big body to out-position opponents.
Due to his injury history, C.J. has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility and is waiting to hear back.
“He just needed those reps, and it started to happen in practice, and then he started showing it in games,” Nichol says.
C.J. has nine receptions for 108 yards this year but has yet to catch a touchdown pass.
The Holiday Bowl looms as the perfect opportunity for him to do something his father never did at Qualcomm Stadium – score a touchdown.