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Miles Diffenbach’s touching gesture


A local product from Fox Chapel Area High School, offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach is one of the most likeable players on the Penn State roster. We’ve written about his ability to be a character in the Nittany Lions’ locker room and practice field. But how about Dieffenbach’s true character?


Former Pitt assistant Bryan Deal was Dieffenbach’s coach at Fox Chapel. Now the golf coach and a teacher at the school, Deal relayed to the Trib’s Kevin Gorman about something very kind that Dieffenbach did for Deal’s family.


Deal’s stepson, Kyle Johnson, tragically died at 23 while running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May.


Johnson, a North Allegheny graduate who was a lineman on the 2007 Tigers’ team that finished the regular season undefeated, graduated from Penn State in 2012. Active in the university community via the Lion Ambassadors and THON, Johnson was a friend of Dieffenbach’s. Even after Johnson graduated, he would accompany Deal and his family on visits to Penn State, going out to dinner with Dieffenbach.


“Miles has a big heart and knew how devastated we were regarding Kyle’s sudden passing, as you can imagine,” Deal wrote in an email.


Dieffenbach wears No. 65, the same number Johnson did in high school. As a tribute to Johnson’s family, Dieffenbach provided them four tickets and field passes to the Lions’ game against Central Florida on Sept. 14. Afterward, he presented a No. 65 “K. JOHNSON” jersey signed by the entire Penn State team to Kyle’s mother MaryBeth, Deal and Kyle’s younger bother Seth Johnson. MaryBeth is a Penn State alum, and Seth Johnson is a junior at Penn State.


No. 65 signed jersey

From left to right: Seth Johnson, MaryBeth Deal, Miles Dieffenbach, Bryan Deal — the brother, mother, friend and stepfather of the late Kyle Johnson


“It was a very moving gesture on behalf of Miles, the team, and the staff,” Deal said


“The picture tells it all. Miles is a kind, compassionate, caring person.  He came to the funeral home as well as the funeral.  He knew how much PSU was a part of Kyle, Seth, and MaryBeth’s life… Needless to say it was very moving and a wonderful gesture on Miles and the PSU football family.


“It just proved what a special person he is both on and off the field.”


Dieffenbach and Kyle Johnson got to know each other through the recruiting process. Dieffenbach said presenting his family – Penn State fans, all – with a jersey was the least he could do.


“That was something I really wanted to do,” Dieffenbach said. “I was pretty close with Kyle; we were friends, just when I heard, it was such a tragic incident. I just felt like there was something I could do to help that family out. He wore No. 65 in high school so I thought that was pretty cool so we got his name on back and got team to sign it got sign it and got them to the game. It was a really special moment for that family and I wish the best for them.”


Among his teammates, Dieffenbach is one of the most popular players on the Penn State team. Usually, it’s for his lighthearted, joking manner. He’s certainly just as respected for his class.


“Every good team that I’ve been around has a guy like Miles Dieffenbach,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a good player, he’s a good student, and he’s a very, very good guy.”


Author: Chris Adamski

Chris Adamski has been tirelessly working in Pittsburgh sports media for more than 12 years. He has extensively covered the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Duquesne and the WPIAL and been a fixture at the biggest events in town over that time -- two Stanley Cup Finals, two AFC Championship games, the 2006 MLB All-Star Game and the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, just to name a few. Chris has been the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Penn State football beat writer since the start of the 2013 season. His primary offseason responsibility is assisting in the Trib's Penguins hockey coverage.

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