As a member of the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad, Harvey Dahl toiled in the trenches for the first 14 games of this regular season.
But all of the hard work paid off and last Tuesday the Niners signed the former University of Nevada offensive lineman to its 53-man roster and he will be activated for today's game against the Rams in St. Louis.
"I got the news that it might happen (the previous week)," Dahl said in a telephone call Wednesday. "I'm just a little relieved that I finally got on the roster. It's been a goal of mine for a while. I'm relieved and have a sense of satisfaction."
Dahl, a 1999 Churchill County High School graduate, said the news brought some pre-Christmas cheer to his parents, who reside in Fallon.
"They were all real happy - really pleased. They were more pumped than I was," said Dahl, who added that he will visit Fallon in the off-season and summer.
After originally signing as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys last spring, Dahl's dream of playing in the National Football League was temporarily shattered when the team subsequently cut him.
"I thought, maybe this is it. I've got to find out something else to do," Dahl said. "I felt that way for about three days till the Niners called."
Dahl's initial elation of signing with San Francisco was soon blunted when fellow offensive lineman Thomas Herrion died of a heart attack following a preseason game against Denver in late August.
"It was tough. Anyone who has been that close to a situation like that...It's just hard to deal with death in any situation," the 24-year-old Dahl said. "He was a young kid - 23 years old. We try to remember him because he was a great guy. He was such a great guy that we're trying to celebrate his life."
On a more positive note Dahl, a right tackle, said he's also had to adjust to being one of the new guys on the 49ers' block.
"Being a rookie is so awful. I've been dealing with a lot of stuff," Dahl said. "I have to buy coffee (for the veterans). I have to pick things up for them. They threw a couple of guys' pants in the pool and the freezer.
"I'm taking guys' crap. Every rookie does that. Then you have a homework assignment. It's kind of a pain, but it's part of paying your dues. It puts you in your place."
Fortunately for Dahl, who wears uniform No. 76, his place now is on the team's roster.
"It's more of a reward thing, for working so hard on the practice squad," Dahl said of his promotion. "And they don't want me to hit the free market. I feel lucky I'm here but I wish I'd done it sooner."
Dahl said he has found it difficult acclimating to his new environment in the Bay Area.
"It's really different down here," said Dahl, who lives in a small apartment in Santa Clara. "It's way different than Fallon and Reno. It's like a culture shock. Let's just say there are some unique people (living there). There's a lot of traffic. There's so many people that it's like a rat race."
And then there's the matter onfield of dealing with the higher level of play.
"It's all a whole new game. There's nothing to compare it to," Dahl said. "It's faster. It takes more (effort) mentally. It's an incredible mountain. It's more of a change - it's a bigger step - going from college to the NFL than it is going from high school to college.
"You have a thick playbook. There's so many different looks that the defense can give you. Preparing like you did in college, you did one thing. In the NFL they have 20 different looks to throw at you."
The 6-foot-6, 308-pound Dahl said he saw some action against the Raiders and the Broncos in the preseason and as one of 10 offensive lineman on the roster he probably wouldn't play against the Rams or Houston in the last two games of the regular season.
"The hardest thing is keeping up with the other guys," Dahl said. "They're great athletes. They're competitive. I have to step it up a notch. I have to work on everything. My main attribute is that I'm physical all the time and I never give up.
"But I have to work on technique. It's a whole new level. The defensive ends are coming off the edge and the linebackers are way faster and more athletic (than in college). They get off blocks quicker and easier. The biggest thing you need is technique."
And it's not like Dahl is breathing easier now.
"I haven't made it by any means," he said. "It's not like I've arrived. I'm going to have a helluva time making the team next year. I have to keep working hard like I have been and good things will happen."
Dahl said there's the possibility that he may end up having to refine his play on an NFL Europe team.
"It could happen and I'd go in a heartbeat," Dahl said. "I'm enjoying playing football. My mindset is to keep playing in the future. I just want to keep on playing football."