Meyer closes out 4-year legacy

Tommy Birch

It was a scene that signified the beginning of the end.

All 19 ISU seniors, dressed in yellow shorts and red jerseys, gather together inside the Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility. Ten of those players had been together since day one in 2003 when former Cyclones coach Dan McCarney recruited and brought them together in Ames. On this Sunday afternoon, they came together for a senior photo. It’s also a day Bret Meyer marks as the beginning of the first day of preparation for his final home game at Jack Trice Stadium.

“We came in and we were just kind of joking around like ‘where’s this guy? Where’s this guy, all the guys?'” Meyer said. “We just tried to sit there and name all of the people that aren’t here for one reason or another and it was just kind of funny thinking about the people that survived it.”

After five years, Meyer is one of the few that has.

The road to Iowa State

The first time McCarney saw Meyer was in the hallways of Atlantic High School. A sophomore quarterback for the Trojans, Meyer had already been selected as an All-State honoree as a freshman. Talking with Atlantic football coach Gaylord Schelling, McCarney was told to keep his eye on the youngster who passed by him in between classes.

“Here’s a tall, handsome, skinny, pencil-necked Bret Meyer,” McCarney said. “So we did keep our eye on him and I made a pretty early decision to offer him [a scholarship].”

The offer was based off of more than just the physical attributes Meyer possessed as a high school student. By the time his career was completed at Atlantic, he would earn first-team All-Conference honors as a junior and a senior. In his final year, Meyer passed for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading the Trojans to an undefeated record and a Class 3A state championship.

“Fortunately he made a decision to accept [the scholarship] and become a member of the Cyclone family,” McCarney said.

The early ISU days

Meyer arrived on the ISU campus for the 2003-04 season. After redshirting one season behind Austin Flynn, Meyer would spend the next off-season competing for the starting role with the returning quarterback. A year later, he would later take over the starting role of quarterback when the Cyclones opened the 2004-05 season against Northern Iowa.

“It was a rush,” Meyer said of the first time he took the field at Jack Trice Stadium. “I can remember myself almost getting too jacked up. It was fun, it was a lot of fun.”

In his first collegiate start, Meyer completed 15 of 24 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown.

The Cyclones would go on to finish the season 7-5 and earn an invitation to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. There, Iowa State would use a late fourth quarter rally to defeat Miami of Ohio, 17-13. Meyer would earn Offensive Player of the Game honors after rushing for 122 yards and passing for 114 more.

The 2004 season marked the start of a two-year stretch where the Cyclones would finish with back-to-back-to-back winning seasons and would participate in another post-season game, the Houston Bowl.

“Going to bowl games your first two years and winning one your freshman year, you kind of are looking forward to a lot of things,” Meyer said.

The things that would come at Meyer over the next year would be anything but expected.

Roller-coaster season

The start of the 2006 season opened with a triple-overtime 45-43 victory over Toledo. The up-and-down game would be symbolic of Meyer’s junior year that included only four wins, a 10-point loss to Iowa and a 31-point defeat to Kansas.

Meyer, who would finish the year with one of his best statistical seasons, completed 211 of 374 passes for 1,546 yards and 12 touchdowns. His stats weren’t enough for another winning season for the Cyclones, and with one game remaining, McCarney would resign as Iowa State’s coach.

“That’s the way things are,” Meyer said. “It’s a business as much as it’s a game anymore.”

But Meyer would get one last chance with the coach who brought him to Ames. After announcing in early November that he would leave the team at the end of the season, McCarney and Meyer led the Cyclones to one more victory in the final game of the season. During a 21-16 victory over Missouri, Meyer passed for 153 yards and one touchdown. Despite the fairy tale ending in McCarney’s final game, Meyer says he still has regrets about how the season went and even blames himself partly for McCarney’s resignation.

“Dealing with him for four years before this, obviously you kind of wish you could have played better so maybe he could still have been here,” he said.

Through the adversity

After three seasons as the Cyclones’ starting quarterback, Meyer entered his senior year as Iowa State’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 41. Still, with new coach Gene Chizik at the helm, many fans wondered where Meyer would fit in with the team. Some even hoped to see backup quarterback Austen Arnaud take over the starting duties.

“He’s always had a smile on his face, always comes to work, ready to work, and doesn’t really get rattled by the situations around him and what people say and what people think,” Chizik said.

The situations have been anything but favorable. After the Cyclones first 10 games, Meyer finds himself in the midst of a 2-8 season. But it’s the smile he’s had that’s impressed many teammates, including wide receiver Todd Blythe, who has caught 29 of Meyer’s 48 touchdown passes.

“Bret and I have been through a lot together, not just as teammates and things like that but as friends,” Blythe said.

This season, they have found themselves fighting and scrapping for wins. Meyer, who will enter his final game at Jack Trice Stadium with his 47th straight start, has found himself sharing playing time with Arnaud. After taking the job from Flynn nearly three years ago, Meyer is now teaching the redshirt freshman from Ames to take over his, something he says doesn’t bother him.

“I learned a lot from the way Flynn handled it and obviously it’s different circumstances,” Meyer said. “You’ve just got to deal with it.

“He makes it easy to enjoy watching him play and hope that he has success.”

But Meyer has plenty of his own success. In his three-and-a-half seasons as the Cyclones’ starting quarterback, he’s passed for more than 9,000 yards. He ranks first on the Cyclones’ all-time list for passing yards and passes completed. Besides being an efficient quarterback, Chizik calls him “classy.”

“I’m glad I got a chance to spend a year around the guy because he’s a great young man and he’s a very good football player,” Chizik said.

When he plays his final game at Jack Trice Stadium, he’ll leave with more than just stats – he’ll have plenty of memories. Senior wide receiver Milan Moses recalled running from Willow Hall with Meyer during the winter, trying to make it to practice on time.

“You’re just going to miss things like that,” Moses said. “It’s going to be hard for this to be our last home game at Jack Trice Stadium.”

Meyer said what he’ll remember most are several games. The 2005 Iowa game, in which the Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes 23-3.

The Colorado game that same year, in which Meyer and his teammates were forced into the locker room while funnel clouds swooped around the stadium. Most of all, he said he’ll remember his final game with McCarney.

“There was so much going on at that time that I really didn’t think too much,” Meyer said. “Just all the emotions that were going into that and the celebration in the locker room – it was special.”

The next step

Meyer is set to graduate in December, and on Nov. 17, he’ll play his final game with the Cyclones.

He said he has aspirations of playing in the NFL. Chizik thinks its a possibility and said he’ll do whatever it takes to promote Iowa State’s all-time touchdown leader. McCarney also thinks there might be a chance for both Meyer and Blythe to continue playing.

“I believe they can and pray that they will,” McCarney said. “But the neat thing with them is that they have so much going for them in their lives.”

Whether that happens or not, Meyer said he’ll be fine. He’s also learned a lot in his time in Ames. From using his first scholarship check on a new PlayStation to the playbooks of a different coach, Meyer said he’s a different person then the freshman that first took the field for Iowa State in 2004.

“I was an 18-year-old running out there not knowing much about football, and now I’m going out there, 22-years-old. It’s going to be a lot different, it will be, but at the same time, it’ll be fun.”

Meyer said that besides the relationships he’s built at Iowa State, he’ll miss the walk to the Jacobson Building from the buses before games and, even more, entering Jack Trice Stadium on game days.

“It just kind of has a special place,” he said.

Now, he’ll leave Iowa State as one of 10 players who came to Ames in 2003, with a bookful of memories and records.

“People tell you that when you come in, look around, because the guys that came in with you, almost half of them won’t be here when you graduate,” he said. “It holds true.”