Nearly three years ago, Kerry Meier, his older brother, Dylan, and several family members were hiking in Arkansas when tragedy struck.
Dylan slipped off a cliff ledge and fell to his death at the age of 26.
Kerry, a former quarterback and wide receiver for Kansas University's football team, reflected on the pain of losing his older brother, a standout quarterback at Pittsburg High who went on to start at Kansas State, Thursday morning at Lawrence High.
"It's something that was very foreign to me," Kerry said of losing a loved one. "One thing that I've learned through it is that's kind of how life is. Life will rear its ugly head in many different ways. As beautiful as it can be, it can be a scary thing to deal with."
One way the Meier family chose to honor Dylan was by establishing The Dylan Meier Get Busy Livin’ Foundation in 2011. It supports individuals and groups that embody the values they associate with Dylan, such as adventure, fitness, generosity and a zest for life.
Those are the kind of qualities the foundation saw in Lawrence High senior quarterback and safety Brad Strauss, chosen as the Dylan Meier Get Busy Livin' Player of the Year. A tight end at Kansas State who played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints, Shad, Dylan's older brother, and Kerry presented Strauss with the award at an LHS assembly Thursday morning.
Kerry, now a wide receiver with the Atlanta Falcons, said Dylan's death in 2010 taught him to roll with life's punches.
"There's a bigger and better purpose for everything you do, and even though this one's hard to see — and I'll probably never figure out and learn what was the meaning behind this — one thing that has brought me peace of mind is being a younger brother to Dylan and trying to fulfill a legacy that he left," Kerry said. "This is something that we take a lot of pride in doing."
He and Shad spent a few hours with Strauss and his family, along with LHS football coach Dirk Wedd, Wednesday night.
"Being able to come back and find guys like Brad who lead a similar life to what Dylan did and reward them for what they've done," Kerry said, "it's a lot of fun."
Strauss has long admired Kerry for his leadership and how he handled moving from quarterback to wide receiver at KU in order to make room for Todd Reesing.
"That's something that inspires me," said Strauss, who signed to play collegiately at Northwest Missouri State. "No matter what situation you're given, just make the best of it."
After spending time with Kerry and Shad, Strauss was moved by how passionate and emotional the Meier brothers were in talking about Dylan and what the award and foundation mean to them.
"There are a bunch of kids in the state of Kansas who are probably deserving of this just as much as I was," Strauss said, "but it's really special that they came here to do this in front of the whole school."
Strauss threw for 2,278 yards, rushed for 743 and piled up 38 total touchdowns his senior year at Lawrence, but the award, presented by Kpreps.com, goes to a Kansas high school football senior who combines excellence on the field with community involvement and integrity. The award recognized the LHS senior's participation at a local food bank, involvement with FLA, Link, Christmas Adopt a Family, the National Honor Society and the team’s youth football camp, as well as his ACT score of 30 and a 3.7 grade-point average.