'Dilly Bar Dan' enjoys his brush with fame

Out of nowhere, on a snowy day in Minnesota, Dilly Bar Dan came into our lives. And it was beautiful. ESPN

On Saturday afternoon, Dan Lehman finished up doing the same thing he's done for nearly 20 years: helping make sure the phones and headsets worked at a Minnesota football game. But as he was getting ready to go home, a co-worker told him something unusual.

Lehman had become a social-media sensation.

The Belle Plaine, Minnesota, resident had been photographed on the sidelines of TCF Bank Stadium eating a Dairy Queen Dilly Bar during the Ohio State-Minnesota game. No big deal, he thought. But many others got a kick out of seeing a guy eat ice cream in 15-degree temperatures and snow. Many, many others.

The picture was endlessly passed around Twitter and other social media and appeared on blogs such as this one. That turned Lehman into an instant minor celebrity. On Monday, he was interviewed by two Twin Cities TV stations and had several other media requests.

"All for a Dilly Bar!" Lehman told ESPN.com. "This is absolutely nuts. Nothing like this ever happens."

Lehman still doesn't quite understand all the fuss. He has worked Gophers game for 19 years and hasn't missed a contest in the past 17 seasons. Since TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009, his boss at Pioneer Communications has always gone up to the press box at halftime to check on the equipment, and he has always brought ice cream treats back to the sidelines for his staff members. Lehman said he has eaten a Dilly Bar at every game he's ever worked at the stadium; Saturday's weather caused him no hesitation.

"It’s never too cold for a Dilly Bar," he said. "That’s just one of those things that I’ll enjoy whenever they give it to me."

Like many Minnesotans, Lehman isn't fazed by cold weather. He likes to go ice fishing on occasion. On Monday, with temperatures still in the teens in Minneapolis, he wore a short-sleeve shirt during one of his TV interviews. The heated coils underneath TCF Bank Stadium's turf and the sideline heaters helped keep him warm enough on Saturday.

"I wouldn't say we're tougher up here in Minnesota," he said. "We’re just used to the cold."

But Lehman is definitely not used to this newfound fame. Co-workers at his regular job gave him good-natured grief all day Monday. On Saturday evening, his 18-year-old daughter, Devin, went to Dairy Queen to buy more Dilly Bars just so she could take selfies of herself eating them next to her dad. Then she posted them on Facebook and Twitter, telling her followers that she got to have ice cream with "the real Dilly Bar Dan."

Yep, Lehman has even earned a nickname.

"I guess that's what people are calling me," he said.

Last week was Minnesota's final home game of the season, but Lehman works road games, too. So he'll be back on the sidelines this Saturday when the Gophers play at Nebraska. The early forecast calls for temperatures near 40 degrees in Lincoln around game time.

Sounds like perfect ice-cream eating weather. So please, Huskers fans: get Dilly Bar Dan a halftime treat.