They both play quarterback. Each has received all-league recognition as a defensive back. But Free State High teammates Joe Dineen and Kyle McFarland have even more in common.
Football runs in their blood.
Decades before they put on green and white and became Firebirds teammates, each had a grandfather in crimson and blue making plays on the gridiron for Kansas University. Kyle’s grandpa, John McFarland, played quarterback for the Jayhawks from 1953-55. From 1962-64, Dineen’s granddad, Ron Oelschlager, played running back and defensive back for KU.
Learning about their family heritage didn’t have quite the impact at a young age that it does now. Kyle is a senior, Dineen a junior, and they realize playing in one of the country’s top college football conferences (the Big Seven and Big Eight in those days) put their grandfathers in select company.
“Once I got older,” Kyle said, “I realized that it was pretty cool that he did.”
John died of cancer in 2009, but his son Scott said before that John never thought about pushing Kyle to follow in his footsteps. Once Kyle got involved in football, though, John loved keeping up with his grandson’s games, either watching them in person or seeing them on video.
“I think Dad took a lot of pride,” Scott said, “in watching him grow up and handle himself as far as being a quarterback.”
Oelschlager has watched Dineen play football since he was very young, but admitted it would be a fib for him to say he could see football in his grandson’s future from the beginning.
“About his fifth- or sixth-grade year, he started making some plays,” Oelschlager said. “He was playing quarterback and all of the sudden you’re standing there and saying, ‘You know what? He can throw the ball a little bit.’ And he had some pretty good speed.”
Dineen learned a lot of football intangibles from his grandfather — “You’ve gotta be tough, you’ve gotta be persistent, you’ve gotta stay at it,” he shared. While both are known for their speed (Oelschlager often tells Dineen he was faster), the grandfather claims his genes weren’t passed down to Dineen.
“Heck, I’m 5-10 and he’s 6-2,” Oelschlager said, adding that Dineen’s mother, Jodi, who played volleyball at KU, probably had more of an impact in that regard.
Scott, on the other hand, has a different theory on Kyle’s lineage. Scott wrestled and swam in high school, and likes to joke that athleticism skips a generation in the McFarland clan. Considering Kyle (6-foot-3) and John (6-4) both ended up playing QB, the grandson agrees.
“Some of it’s gotta be coming from him,” Kyle said.
FSHS football coach Bob Lisher thinks coming from a football family helped Dineen and McFarland.
“They’re both playmakers,” Lisher said. “It’s like they’ve been around it, they’ve seen it, they know it, they’ve played it for a long time. If they have that heritage in their background, it’s just gonna help make it that much easier for them to be players.”
Both will start as defensive backs for Free State this season, and their coach said both could play quarterback, too. McFarland enters the year as the returning starter, and Lisher said Dineen will be used at different positions, including QB.
You won’t hear McFarland complaining.
“He’s definitely gonna be a starter next year,” the senior said of Dineen, “so he’s gonna need reps in games. I mean, he could come in this year and do perfectly fine.”
The Firebirds with KU bloodlines, Dineen added, are comparable signal-callers, too.
“It’s a lot like last year. We’ll just see how it goes,” Dineen said. “It’s gonna be a fun year. He’s a good quarterback, and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year, also.”