In His Own Words: Dave Meyer
Part 1 of 2, by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 3/30/01
Click here for Part 2
Former Tech quarterback Dave Meyer is an interesting and unusual story. A career backup who seemed cursed by injuries and misfortune through the early stages of his career, Meyer finally found redemption in his senior year when he led the Hokies to a key victory against Pittsburgh after Michael Vick had been felled by injury.
But Dave's emergence and acceptance by the fans during his senior year goes beyond his performance in the Pittsburgh game. It's more about the way he carries himself, and the open, honest, and engaging way that he answers questions in front of a microphone. He exudes positive energy, no matter what the circumstances, and fans are intrigued by and attracted to that. If you see Dave Meyer often enough, it rapidly becomes apparent that his act as a stand-up guy is no act at all -- it's the way he is.
The thing about Dave Meyer is that no matter how hard you try, you just can't keep him down, and he never quits. He redshirted behind Jim Druckenmiller and rode the bench behind Al Clark and Michael Vick, spending five years in near obscurity, but he never threw in the towel and transferred out. He hung around and hung around, finally making his big splash this past season, and the media continues to follow him and his efforts to make the Roanoke Steam and the NFL.
If Dave Meyer's willingness to spend his career as a second- or third-stringer wasn't odd enough, Meyer appears to have the physical tools, motivation, and attitude to make an NFL roster, and he may do just that (more on that later). Virginia Tech, never known as a quarterback school, may land their backup QB in the NFL in a year in which their starter might be the #1 pick.
I was intrigued enough by Dave Meyer and his career to request an interview at the end of the season. Dave, of course, granted it, and we met at Squires Student Center one day in late January. Dave showed up looking very casual in jeans, a flannel shirt, and a down vest. He immediately turned the conversation to me, asking questions about the web site and expressing interest in TechSideline.com's evolution from a hobby into a full-time business venture. Dave Meyer is interested in other people, and if you ever meet him, he is eminently interested in finding out more about you and what makes you tick ("I'm a relationship guy," he explains).
It took me fully ten minutes to get Dave on the subject of himself, but once we started talking about him and his career, he held forth for nearly an hour, answering every question openly and honestly, as is his nature. We later followed up with a phone interview on March 25th to bring things up to date (Dave answered the phone and greeted me with "Will! What's up, buddy? How's the family?").
After I transcribed the two interview sessions and looked them over as an editor and a columnist, I realized something interesting: if you removed my questions and resequenced Dave's answers slightly, his responses to my questions could stand alone as a recounting of his career, his future, and his outlook on life. With some relatively minor edits, I had a series of two articles ready to go.
So enjoy this in-depth look into the career of Dave Meyer Ö in his own words.
Growing Up in New Jersey
I'm the oldest child in my family, and I have a sister that's one year younger, and a brother that's two years younger. My parents got married when my mom was 19, and she had me when she was 20. My dad is 47 right now, and my mom is 44. They've got the empty nest now, and they go on two cruises a year. They go to Aruba on one and Florida on the other.
A lot of their friends had kids in their early 30's, and you know, when they were in their 20's and early 30's, that was when they did their traveling around and building their careers. My parents, now it's their turn.
I grew up in a large, non-denominational, evangelical church. It was a 4,000-member church. So it was a large church. I always knew right from wrong. Our lives were based on the Bible and our relationship with Jesus Christ was stressed first and foremost, more than anything else. So that was what the foundation of our lives was.
I started at quarterback for three years in high school (at Ramsey High School in Ramsey, New Jersey). When I was a sophomore, they said at best we would win two games, and we wound up going 5-4. My junior year, we went to the state championship, and we lost it. It was in Giants Stadium. It was fun to play on the turf. That was a fun season -- my junior year was a whole lot of fun.
My senior year, we entered the season the number one-ranked team in our classification. We won our first five games, and we were definitely the best in the state. I took a fall -- we were up 24-0, I shouldn't have even been in the game -- and I broke my collarbone. And I didn't play the rest of the year.
I didn't make first-team all state. Rashard Casey (who later played for Penn State) was the first team all-state guy. My junior year, we played against his team in the state championship game. That was who we lost to. He threw one pass the whole game. He had like, 12 runs for 150 yards, and two punt returns for touchdowns. He kicked our butts. So he was first team quarterback, not me. I don't think I was even top 50 in the state.
Because of my injury, there were some teams that backed off of me in recruiting. Coach Walt Harris was recruiting me to go to Ohio State -- I was like, geez, Ohio State, I've heard of that team -- but the first team to offer me was Virginia Tech, in May of my junior year. Coach Bustle offered me a scholarship, and once he offered me, the other schools in the Big East offered me. Miami didn't offer me, and Rutgers didn't offer me -- they were caught in a coaching transition, so I slipped through the cracks, but I wouldn't have gone there anyway -- but Syracuse offered me. My three main choices were Syracuse, East Carolina, and Virginia Tech, and I went to Virginia Tech.
Coach Bustle found out about me through a New Jersey scouting video. Your head coach nominates you for it, and they tape a bunch of players, and they put two or three of your best plays on the tape. And on your highlight, at the bottom it says, "Dave Meyer, Ramsey High School."
They probably show 200 players, and they send the tape around the country to promote New Jersey high school football players. Coach Bustle saw me on that tape.
I watched the Sugar Bowl (Tech's 1995 victory over Texas) when I was a senior in high school. That was when Druck played. I remember going to Syracuse, and Rob Konrad, who plays for the Dolphins now, was my host, and he said, "Where else you looking?" I said, "I'm going to Virginia Tech next weekend." He said, "You donít want to go there. You drive up, they've got cows there. There's a lot of woods and mountains. You want to go to the city."
I said, "Heck no -- tell me more about this Virginia Tech place. I want to know more about it." He said, "You're crazy."
I grew up twenty minutes from New York City. I wanted woods and some place to fish. Fishing is my favorite thing to do in the world. I wanted the woods, and the camping, and just to be able to go out in the middle of nowhere. When he was telling me this, he was trying to badmouth Tech, and he's doing the opposite.
When I went down to Tech the next weekend, I just fell in love with it. The atmosphere, the small-town college feel that it has to it. It's a total college town.
Redshirt Year (1996) at Tech
When I came to Tech, I knew I wasn't going to play at Tech as a freshman. Druck was a redshirt senior, highly-touted, going to be the top quarterback picked in the draft. But I knew I was going to be given the chance to compete for a job.
Coach Bustle told me, "Al Clark, he can't throw an out-cut, he's got no oomph on the ball, you can come in and play right away," all that stuff. You know, that's what coaches do: "This guy, it's going to be hard for him to play here, we think you can come in and play right away as a redshirt freshman." I was excited to compete as a redshirt freshman. You can't ask for anything more than that.
When (fellow QB recruit) Nick (Sorensen) and I were roommates, we heard about Al Clark, and we heard about Jim Druckenmiller, we heard about how Al Clark was supposed to play in front of Druck. So we're thinking that Al's a star. Well, in practice, you see Jim throw the ball, and you're like, "Oh, my -- he can throw it right through your chest!"
Honestly, looking at Mike Vick's arm strength and Druckenmiller's arm strength, I tell people, "Jim Druckenmiller's arm strength is better." I'm not joking. I love Mike, but Druckenmiller's arm strength is better. Mike's got a quicker release, and Druckenmiller is not the athlete that Mike is, but his arm strength, sheer arm strength? I've never seen a human throw the ball that hard. And even the NFL scouts said that the only one who ever came out of the NFL draft with a better arm is John Elway.
So I knew I wasn't going to play as a true freshman. Spring game my first year, I got a third-degree AC shoulder separation and missed three and a half months. Nick and I were tied in the spring for second string, and they wanted to see someone step up, but I was out for three and a half to four months.
That shoulder really set me back. I didn't get to compete in the Ironman competition, and I didn't get to left all summer (of 1997). That was a bummer.
Redshirt Freshman Year (1997)
The next fall, because of my shoulder, Nick got most of the preseason reps, and he ended up being second string when I was a redshirt freshman. So I sat third string when I thought going in that I would have a chance to start or be second string.
The next spring (1998), Coach said, "Okay, this is going to be Dave's spring, where he gets a chance to get some reps and get some practice."
They had just moved Nick to safety. So it was just me, and Al, and Denny Randolph, who was a walk-on. And Al didn't get much work, because Al was still nursing a sore foot or something.
So I got a lot of reps that spring. And Coach Bustle, bless his heart, he never played quarterback, so he doesn't know the physics of a quarterback's throwing motion. I would throw a hundred passes in a practice, because it was just me and Denny, and he didn't want to give Denny the work. I mean, if you're a walk-on Ö Virginia Tech will never play a walk-on quarterback, I guarantee it.
So I would go with the one (first string offense), then I would go with the two's (second string offense), then Denny would get some threes, and then I would go with the skeleton. My arm would hang at the end of practice. So I said, "Coach, I need to take a day off." He goes, "No, you can't do it, tough it out. Tough it out. Be a man."
So he keeps ragging on me, and I said, you know what, I'll give it a go. And I ended up tearing my lat. To this day, when I flex my lat, I've got this big divot in it from where it was torn.
So I had a torn lat, and I ended up missing a week of spring practice. They put this magnet on it that was supposed to heal it. I ended up playing in the spring game that year, but Ö it was awful. I really wasn't supposed to be out there. I think I completed four passes or something (note: Meyer was 4-8 for 43 yards in the 1998 Spring Game). My arm was just hanging.
Redshirt Sophomore Year (1998)
Note: In Meyer's redshirt sophomore year, he finally got his chance to play when Al Clark injured his foot in the third game of the season at Miami. The Hokies returned home to play Pittsburgh, and Meyer started the game. He completed his first 6 passes, eventually going 7-of-9 for 98 yards. He was intercepted once before leaving with a separated shoulder late in the third quarter. He would not return again until the UAB game a month later, when he would throw a 54-yard TD pass to Ricky Hall despite still suffering the effects of his shoulder injury.
In my redshirt sophomore year, I ended up playing in a couple of games. I started the Pitt game. But I took these falls in that game where Doc said, "Dave, you got some weird luck. If it makes you feel any better, if anyone else takes that same hit as you, they would have done the same thing (gotten hurt)."
In that game, I did a first-degree separation of my right shoulder. It wasn't nearly as bad as my left one the time before. I was able to come back in the UAB game that year, but Doc said that quarterback shoulder pads don't protect you on the sides, because you need to be able to raise your arm. So when you take a hit on the side or fall on the side, there's no protection. Aikman, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, they've all gotten hurt like that.
I just remember being surprised how well the guys took to me (in the Pitt game), as far as my leadership. I came out and I was like 6-for-6, and I felt really comfortable. The coaches felt comfortable, everything was going well. I was starting to think, "You know, I could play four of five games like this. Al's going to be gone for a little while. I could really get a good stretch in here."
Mike (Vick) was on the sidelines, and we all knew he wasn't going to play. They knew they wanted to redshirt him, they knew he was something special. So I thought to myself, "You know, everyone's talking about Vick next year, but if I play four games, and we win all four, and I do well, I really think that I'll have a good chance of going into next season tied (for the starting job)."
Or who knows, somebody like James Madison would say hey, we really want you to come and play for us this year. At least, there would be more options.
But that didn't happen. I only ended up starting that one game and playing maybe two others. It was a frustrating time. That's when I learned about patience, and how my timing isn't always the best.
(Regarding the long TD pass against UAB) I don't know how I got it that far. I kind of guided it, I didn't really throw it, so it didn't hurt. But now, I can throw it ten or fifteen yards farther than that. My shoulder was probably only about 60-70 percent on that play. It was only 3-4 weeks after I had separated it, and I really hadn't gone through my total rehab.
Going into the following spring, I knew that if I didn't get at least three of four starts as a sophomore that I didn't have a chance to beat out Mike. The coaches did do a good job of putting us both at number one going into that spring, but they were very honest. They said, "If you're comparable, we're not going to start a junior over a freshman. We're going to go with the freshman and build for the future."
We didn't know that Mike had that sort of excitement in him, because he never got it loose in practice like he later did in games, because he was always wearing the yellow jersey. We never really saw all that he had, so the coaches didn't really know that he was Mr. Excitement and all that stuff.
But that was their thing. If we're going to have a rebuilding year on offense, and our defense is going to carry us, then we're going to do it with a freshman. Plus, he was the guy that our fans wanted to see. He was the most highly-rated quarterback to ever come to Tech.
I talked to my dad about it, about maybe switching to one of the 1-AA schools that had recruited me out of high school. My dad said, "Hey, you just say the word, and I'll put you out on the waiver wire, and we'll see if there are any takers."
I said, "I don't want you to do that." I was in the process of maybe getting engaged, I was going to graduate soon, and I love Tech, and I love all the guys on the team. I believe that God is going to use me, whether I'm on the front lines or behind the scenes, no matter what.
In Meyer's redshirt junior year of 1999, Michael Vick went down with an injury in the opener against James Madison, giving Meyer the opportunity to start against UAB in the second game of the year. And as Vick's injury flared up on various occasions, Meyer would get to play. The UAB game did not go well for Meyer. He had three interceptions and a fumble.
In the fourth game of the year, on the road against UVa, Vick reinjured his ankle late in the first half. With the ball deep in UVa territory, Meyer was inserted in the game, and he fumbled a snap on the Virginia goal line that the Cavaliers recovered. Meyer was yanked, and a limping Vick played the entire second half, doing little more than handing the ball off.
The UAB game my junior year was one of those games where nothing seemed to go right. In the second quarter, I had three interceptions and one lost fumble, all in the second quarter.
The first interception was a sight adjustment. I pointed at a certain guy, that means, "If he comes, you'll know to block him." The receiver was supposed to run a slant. Well, I throw a slant, he runs a hitch -- interception.
The next play, a couple of series later, I roll out, throw it, linebacker tips it, ball flips over, interception.
Then later, I get hit from behind, and I fumble.
Right before the half, Coach says, "Throw it downfield, see if we can get something." So I throw it downfield, guys jumps up in the air, picks it off, boom, interception, no time left on the clock.
So that was a very frustrating time, because I went in the locker room, and -- you know, on the field our defensive coaches don't watch the offense, they just talk to the defense, so every time I threw a pick, it was like, "Crap!" and they have to run back in the game.
So they're in the locker room going "Hey, you've got to step it up!" Coach Bustle pulls me aside and says, "Don't listen to them, just go do what you've got to do." After that, in the second half, there were no turnovers, I went something like 5-for-8, I made all my reads, made all my throws, it went great.
Then I open the Roanoke Times the next day, and the headline says, "Hokies Need Vick to Click." There was stuff about Dave Meyer and how he can't get the job done. It was a time when I just said, "Lord, if I didnít have you on my side, I don't know what I'd be doing."
I just felt so Ö not valued. I just felt so unappreciated. All the time, it was all about Mike and how much we needed him, and he had only played a half against a 1-AA team.
Then our coaches get their minds triggered, they get affected by what people write. And in all that week of practice -- we had an off-week before a Thursday game with Clemson -- they were like, "Mike, can you go?" And he would say, "I'm fifty percent," and they would say, "Let's get you reps anyway."
So it was like, put Dave on the shelf, we saw he can barely get it done against UAB, what's he going to do against Clemson? I felt like I wasn't really part of the mix.
But UAB that game, granted it's the second game of the year, but Josh Redding and Matt Lehr will still tell me that was the best defensive line that they played against in four years. They said that about the UAB defensive line. The best defensive line they played.
I felt like at that point that I had the support of the offensive players. The defensive coaches just didn't see what was going on, so you can't fault them. But when I played the rest of the year -- I got a little bit of a time against Temple, and Rutgers -- I was like, perfect. I gained a whole lot of confidence just being out there.
The UVa game Ö that was after the Clemson game. Mike had a great first half, then he twisted his ankle, and they said, "Dave, get in there."
The first play was the shotgun. I handed off, Shyrone busted it for five or six yards, and we got right up there to the goal line. The coaches said, we're playing for a field goal at this point, be conservative, let the clock run, call time out with seven seconds left.
So, next play, I go up there, and it's just a run up the middle. Now, when I take a snap, my aim is to put my knuckle right in the middle of the center's butt (imitates putting hands under center). Well, I put my hands in there, he snapped it, and the ball hit over here on his butt (moves hands significantly to the left). That's where Mike puts his hands.
We didn't take any practice snaps. So there goes the ball on the ground, they recover it, and that's it. At half time, no one said a word to me. They said, "Mike's going to play." I felt two inches tall.
They know I'm not going to call anybody like Keith Short out, and blame it on him, and embarrass him like that. You know, it happened, and nobody made a stink about it, and that was it.
But I donít want to make it sound like I'm making excuses. I should have taken some snaps before I went in there. I felt worse than anybody. The coach didn't have to yell at me to make me feel bad about it.
I guarantee you, if I had taken that snap, and handed it off, and Shyrone had jumped over the top for a touchdown, I would have played the whole second half. I was hurt that they didn't show enough confidence in me to say, "Hey, go ahead and play the second half."
All they did was run, and the passes he did throw were those three-step drops. Coach said going into the season, "Dave, we know if anything happens to Mike, we're going to be fine, you could be starting for any other team in the Big East." I said, "Yeah, I know that, but show that you have confidence in me when the stuff hits the fan."
I took some hard hits that year, but at least I didn't get injured. Mostly though, I watched from the sidelines in the big games. Most of my time was scrub duty against Temple, and Rutgers, that kind of thing.
One thing that I really learned during that year was that I could be of value whether I was on the field as the first stringer, or holding a clipboard as a backup.
Next: The 2000 Season and Beyond
Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager ofTechSideline.com. He writes the News and Notes section, game previews, and game reports for TSL, writes and edits for the TSL Extra, and generally runs the place with his prodigious and productive brain.