On April 25, the Friday before the draft, Harbaugh and his wife, Jackie, hosted a small farewell dinner for Offerdahl. John had to ask for directions; it was only the second time in four years that he had been to his coach's house.
Offerdahl asked Harbaugh a question: "Coach, I've always wondered, do you know how much pressure you put on me the last four years, using me as an example, telling the other guys to be just like me? Did you know that I really never became friends with the guys I came in with as a freshman, because I started right away and they didn't?"
Harbaugh was silent for a moment. "Compared to you, they felt like mere mortals," he said. "It was wrong to expect them to be like you."
Harbaugh raised a glass of champagne. "We're going to miss you," the coach said. "Four great years. This is only the beginning."
"Gee, Coach," Offerdahl said, softly, "that's the shortest speech you've ever given."
The next day, Offerdahl sat in the field house as his friends from the Class of '86 passed by in caps and gowns.
"I'm so proud of them," said Offerdahl, who is 14 credits short of his degree. "I feel like I should be there. Graduating in four years is the right thing to do. I will come back and finish.
"It has always been a constant struggle between academics and football. In the beginning, I wasn't mature enough to realize life has to be organized—school has to be organized—to play football. Football was always the present; every week, it's on the line."
On Sunday and Monday, the days before the draft, Offerdahl decided to stop on his way to Sun Prairie in Fort Atkinson, Wis. (pop. 9,785), his old hometown, 40 minutes away. No sooner had he pulled into Norb and Joann Yaeggi's driveway than a steady stream of station wagons began driving by, horns honking. Neighborhood kids came hunting for autographs. John Tipton, who drove the bus to Offerdahl's high school games, ran over to give him a laminated newspaper clipping about the Senior Bowl.
He went by his old house on Orchard Lane and popped in on Mrs. Barbara Schafer, who lives next door.