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Chargers Roster Breakdowns, 90-in-90: ILB Nick Dzubnar

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Day 38 of 90-in-90. Let’s take a look at ILB Nick Dzubnar, who was one of many Chargers to have their season prematurely cut short last year.

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Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Player Factfile:

Name: Nick Dzubnar

Age: 25

Position: ILB

College: Cal Poly

NFL games played: 20

Games played for the Chargers: 20

Fun fact: Dzubnar’s little brother played Pop Warner football with Max Tuerk growing up. Small world, huh?

For some, a career in football means traveling all across the country. Nick Dzubnar hasn’t even had to leave the state.

Born in Anaheim, California, Dzubnar attended Mission Viejo High School, and seemingly managed to freeze time while he was there because I can’t work out how it’s humanly possible to fit in everything Dzubnar did during High School.

Dzubnar was a Team Captain in football and an integral part of a defense that would give up just 10.5 points on average to opposing offenses. In his Senior Year, Dzubnar earned first-team All-South Coast League and All-Orange County honors and was named Defensive MVP of his team as well as the South Coast League, and led his team to a 12-1 record and their first league title since 1972.

Dzubnar was also a wrestler, as well as playing ice hockey outside of school. He was the Senior Class President in High School and managed to finish with a 3.3 GPA. Essentially, Dzubnar was that person in High School who was just naturally talented at everything. Unfortunately, D1 FBS football demands even more than ‘naturally talented’, and Dzubnar had scant interest from colleges, with only UNLV, New Hampshire, and Cal Poly recruiting the LB who wasn’t even given star ratings by any recruiting site.

Dzubnar’s father had attended Cal Poly, and Dzubnar decided to follow in his footsteps, committing to the D1 FCS school to play LB. Fun fact about Cal Poly - Chargers owner Alex Spanos attended there when he was younger in 1941 and 1942 and was a major benefactor to the university. When he personally gave them a large sum of money to renovate their football stadium, the stadium name was changed to the Alex G. Spanos Stadium in his honor, a name which exists today, meaning for his four years as a college football player, Dzubnar would play his home games at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium. That’s pretty cool.

He had to wait a while to actually suit up at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium, however, as Dzubnar would redshirt his True Freshman Year and then see limited action in his Redshirt Freshman Year - but if Dzubnar was concerned he wasn’t getting as much game time as he would have hoped, he needn’t have worried.

Dzubnar exploded into life in his Sophomore Year, making 107 tackles (the most on the team), forcing two fumbles (and recovering two) and notching his first touchdown for Cal Poly, returning an interception 40 yards for a TD. Dzubnar was made an All-Big Sky (that’s a fantastic conference name) Honorable Mention, and widely regarded as someone to watch next year. He didn’t disappoint. Dzubnar would again be Cal Poly’s leading tackler with 112 this time around, another interception and three forced fumbles, being named a Third Team All-Big Sky player.

A good career, so far. But not NFL worthy. So Dzubnar stepped it up in his Senior Year. His 167 tackles that season are the Cal Poly record for the most tackles ever in a single season, and he added 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and two more interceptions, being named a First Team All-Big Sky player this time around. Dzubnar was ready for the NFL - if they were ready for him. A Cal Poly player was never going to earn an invite to the NFL Combine, no matter how impressive his production, so he had to impress the NFL scouts that came down to the Cal Poly Pro Day.

He ran a 4.67 40 yard dash, with good shuttle times and 29 reps on the bench press. He certainly made an impression on Gil Brandt, who described Dzubnar’s performance as ‘really impressive.’ It wasn’t a surprise that Dzubnar went undrafted but he had interest as a UDFA and decided to sign with the Chargers shortly after the draft, staying in California.

Dzubnar had a big impact in preseason, impressing on both defense and special teams, with his 25 tackles the second highest out of any NFL rookie in the entire preseason. He earned a roster spot and is one of four UDFAs from a really strong group to still be on the team. Tyrell Williams, Josh Lambo, Tyreek Burwell, and Nick Dzubnar is a really impressive haul from one UDFA class.

Dzubnar appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, continued to impress on special teams and saw some action at LB after injuries hit the Chargers LB corps hard (because of course, they did).

Dzubnar’s own season was cut short by injury last season, with a knee injury in Week 4 against the Saints ruling him out for the rest of the season. He comes back in his third year in the NFL trying to hold onto his roster spot and climb up the depth chart.

Personally, I think Dzubnar will make the team. He played in a 4-3 defense all four years of college, with three years as the MIKE LB and the leader of the defense, and one as the SAM LB. The Chargers also really like what he brings to the table on STs.

If the decision was up to me, Dzubnar wouldn’t make it. He has some ST value, but the Chargers have plenty of other guys who do the same, and he is not good as an LB. The first ever post I wrote on Bolts from the Blue (it was a FanPost, but it still counts) was a Winners and Losers from the first preseason game of last season, and Dzubnar was my #1 loser. He was awful. Go and read it, and watch the three clips. The first one is probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen an LB do on the field, and I watched close to 1,000 Manti Te’o snaps for an article. (Just kidding. He wasn’t healthy for that many.)

If the Chargers want to keep him, it has to be strictly as an ST player to replace Darrell Stuckey. As of now (and admittedly he could have improved since the last time we saw him on an NFL field), Dzubnar is not an NFL-calibre LB. It’s a strange one. He has all the intangibles you look for, but it just hasn’t yet come together for Dzubnar on the field. This could be the year that changes (there is often a big leap in performance from year 2 to 3 for young NFL players), but I’m not going to hold my breath.

The Chargers have five virtual locks at LB in Kyle Emanuel, Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown, Korey Toomer (who was one of the MVPs of last season) and Joshua Perry. That means Dzubnar is probably battling with UDFAs James Onwualu, Mike Moore, and Nigel Harris for a roster spot. Onwualu has a lot of ST ability (just like Dzubnar), but my sneaky pick to make the roster is Nigel Harris. I’m a big fan of his college tape, and he’s a fast, physical LB. I think he’s got an NFL career ahead of him.

Anyway, I digress. We’ve already spoken about Nigel Harris. This is about Nick Dzubnar. As a California native, it probably isn’t surprising to learn that Dzubnar is a fan of surfing, but it might be slightly more surprising that his first love was ice hockey, rather than football. In fact, Dzubnar claims that he was “better at ice hockey than football” in High School.

Dzubnar graduated Cal Poly (where his younger brother also plays football and has one year of eligibility left) with a degree in Construction Management. If you ever saw Dzubnar play for Cal Poly, you’d notice that he wore gloves like everybody else. The only reason I mention that is because Dzubnar is now one of the very few NFL players to play without gloves. He gave his gloves to a Chargers fan and decided to see what it was like to play without them, and liked the feeling so much that he hasn’t gone back to gloves since.

Just 20 days ago, on July 1st, Dzubnar got married in San Diego, which is awesome. I might not love Dzubnar’s play on the field, but that doesn’t mean I’m not genuinely happy for him off of it. If you want to see any pictures, you can do that here.