The Maryland schools didn't offer tackle football until high school, so Dilweg didn't play the sport until he arrived at Walt Whitman High—after a year at boarding school—as a sophomore. He was the backup quarterback and punter. "I always thought quarterback was the coolest thing," he says. "I was captivated by the TV image of coming to the sideline in a tight game, taking off your helmet and talking to the coach."
Dilweg was poised to assume that role when, in the second preseason scrimmage of his senior year, he tore three ligaments in his left knee. Doctors told him that he would never play football again. Even after six weeks in a cast, two months of physical therapy three times a week and several painful manipulations of the knee—the leg was forcefully bent by a therapist to increase its range of motion—by early December Dilweg still couldn't walk well. "I remember standing in the shower in tears," he says. He begged the doctors to let him play varsity basketball if he promised not to jump. They acquiesced, figuring that running might not hurt. "Within a week, I had great range of motion," Dilweg says. "It was unbelievable."
Knowing how much Anthony still wanted to be a quarterback, Bob appeared before the Montgomery County School Board athletic director to request that Anthony be allowed an additional year of high school eligibility. He argued that his son needed another season of football to attract college scholarship offers. The athletic director agreed. That season—while Anthony took several advanced placement courses in the classroom—he threw for 2,293 yards and 24 TDs and was named Maryland High School Player of the Year by the D.C. Touchdown Club.
His knee injury helped put the game in perspective for Dilweg. He chose Duke, with its tough academic standards, over Maryland. Virginia and North Carolina, which also offered scholarships, because he knew that a football career could be over instantly and that an education was more important in the long run. Once he joined the Blue Devils he had to contend with the frustration of four years of backing up Steve Slayden, who was drafted by the Browns last spring. "I channeled my aggression into other things, like acting," he says. "I tried to make people laugh so they wouldn't see how much I hurt."
Yet he never let playing second fiddle break his spirit. For two years he has been a devoted Big Brother to Tory Green, a youngster from Durham. Once a week they play catch or have dinner, and last Christmas Dilweg gave his No. 8 jersey to Tory. Dilweg also was a patient friend to Thomas during a period when she questioned whether Duke was the right school for her.
"She wasn't happy, period," Dilweg says. "Her problem was life. Mine was only football."
Thomas had already decided that Dilweg was right for her, in spite of his antics on their first date. Two hours late for dinner, Dilweg burst into Thomas's living room, where she and her roommate were sitting on the floor eating a large pizza. Dilweg stepped in the middle of the pie, then stomped around the carpet, making tomato sauce footprints. Flicking the lights on and off, he flopped onto a bed and fell asleep. It was not the quarterback's finest performance.
Two weeks ago, before he left town for the Vanderbilt game, Dilweg stopped by the restaurant where Thomas works as a waitress and presented her with a red rose.
"A lot of people take a lot of things for granted," Dilweg says. "If things are going well, they don't look past the next day. That's foolish. Anything can happen in life. You can't always expect things to go your way."