Austin, Texas With all the mud-slinging flying through the eight years of Mark Mangino’s soon-to-end reign as coach of the Kansas University football team hogging the headlines, it ought to come as no surprise that one man standing above the fray is a guy who always has managed to sound a voice of reason and conduct himself with class and maturity.
Fifth-year senior Kerry Meier, recruited as a savior of the program, a golden boy of a quarterback blessed with the sort of frame and feet that make NFL scouts want to see more of his arm, battled injuries and expected ups and downs of a first-year field general when he was KU’s starting quarterback as a red-shirt freshman.
Meier lost the starting job to Todd Reesing in training camp the following summer, reason enough for Meier to hold a grudge against Mangino, except that he never did. He found another way to contribute, shifting to receiver. A part of him, the silent part, still believes he is a quarterback at heart and a very capable one.
During his career at Kansas, Meier, a strong running threat, has completed 61.2 percent of his passes, has thrown 17 touchdowns and been intercepted 10 times. He also has a not great, but respectable, yards-per-pass average of 7.3.
When Reesing, playing hurt and unable to avoid turnovers, unable to lead the offense into the end zone, faltered so badly for a stretch it became evident putting Meier under center could have been just the spark the team needed to reverse its tailspin, Mangino decided to remain loyal to Reesing. Again, Meier never questioned his coach, never stopped believing in his teammate.
He’s a great receiver, a better teammate, a coach’s dream, a most welcome one for a coach living a nightmare. The movement to change the name of a stretch of Missouri Street in honor of Don Fambrough never got off the ground. At this point, with Mangino being investigated by the athletic department, Elm Street might be a more appropriate name.
Through all the chaos, Meier remains calm, serenely embracing all the responsibilities that come with accepting a scholarship to play football at KU.
Meier didn’t duck any questions when he addressed the press after Wednesday’s practice, and he didn’t take a pass on backing his coach.
“I sure was,” Meier said when asked if he had been surprised by the investigation. “The one thing that surprised me the most was the timing of it. I’m sitting here in my senior season, two games left in the season, we’ve got a little problem. That’s one thing that kind of jumped out the most, just the timing of the situation.”
He said he can’t blame Mangino for being upset.
“He’s taken this program to new and great heights that I don’t think anybody ever imagined,” Meier said. “And if they’re looking to bring somebody in to try to turn this program around again, it’s going to be a tough, tough challenge to try to find somebody to do that.”
Who knows what NFL scouts desire in a football player, but here’s hoping Meier is either fast enough to play wide receiver or can pack on enough pounds to play tight end to earn himself a lot of money in the most rare of all gridiron clubs, the NFL.