Holding It Down

With all of the Bears' ups and downs this year, there are a few positions at which they've received consistent play throughout the season, and were it not for a minor misplay in the Washington game, two of them might have slipped through the season almost unnoticed. Today, we'll look at one of them, one who after choosing his college, wasn't even sure he'd have the chance to play football.

For every high-profile high-school student-athlete who's being wooed by colleges to come play for their school, there are dozens of Bryan Van Meters; student-athletes who are accomplished football players and outstanding students, but face a crossroads about what to do with their future.  Do they put their sport first, and look for opportunities to play and subordinate their education, or does education become the top priority while they keep hoping for an opportunity in their sport that may never come.

Van Meter chose the second route, and thanks to some persistence on his part and a lot of hard work in the interim, he's seen action in every game this season as the holder on extra points and field goals, plays a significant role in relaying signals to the quarterbacks, and has gotten numerous reps during practice as a reserve quarterback.

The 6-1 junior's path to Cal was considerably different than most of his teammates.  Even though he was a first-team all-league quarterback at Aptos High School, and led his team to league, section, and Division II titles, he wasn't even all that certain that he had a future in football.  As a result, he based his college choice on what the best scholastic fit would be.

"I wasn't recruited much coming out of high school so I was looking at schools academically," said Van Meter, who's had the chance to toss footballs with fellow Aptos High grad and current 49er quarterback Trent Dilfer. "I knew Cal was prestigious and I would have loved to come here."

Van Meter dutifully filled out his college applications, and once he was accepted by Cal, quickly decided that's where he wanted to go.

While the easiest thing for him to do would have been to call it a career, look back on his high school days with fond memories, get on with being a college student and become king of intramurals, he wasn't about to let football slip away that easily.  At the time, the Bears were coming off of an 8-6 record in 2003, and with Aaron Rodgers and company were poised for a big year in 2004. But he never allowed himself to think that what Cal was on the threshold of accomplishing would be something that was beyond his reach. 

"I wanted to play football, and I would have loved to come here do anything I could to play," said Van Meter.

So during the spring of his senior year, the phone calls went back and forth between him and the football office and numbers had to be calculated and re-calculated, because of the fluid nature of college football rosters.  From injury issues that keep people from playing another year, to others who graduated or decided it was time to move on to something different, Van Meter had to wait for the rosters to settle to see if  he'd get a chance.

"After the season, they talked to me about possibly have a spot to walk-on, but there were restrictions about how many people they could have in camp, so they didn't know if they'd have an open spot," said Van Meter, who's majoring in business administration and likes golfing during the off-season. "I got a call and talked with the coaches and they were unsure if they had a spot.  At the end of the school year I got a call and they said they had a spot available."

Van Meter redshirted during 2004, and didn't see any game action in 2005 or 2006. This past spring, an opportunity to be the holder opened up. 

"In spring, [the competition] was between Kevin (Riley) and me, but then Kevin broke his finger and I've had it ever since," said Van Meter, who was the winningest quarterback in Aptos history and set a school record for most passing yards in a season   "It's a way for me get on the field.  It's become so natural to me that I don't think about it when I'm out there."

As the primary holder, Van Meter had to hold for Tom Schneider during fall camp, but since Schneider suffered an injured quad shortly before the season opener against Tennessee, he's been holding for Jordan Kay.   The change of kickers didn't throw Van Meter off.

"It's no different to me," said Van Meter.  "You have to get set at the right distance, and you have to get ready for the kicker.  After that, it's not so hard.  Tom and Jordan are both similar in timing. They've also worked together for a few years and they're very similar so there hasn't been a big difference in working with the different kickers."

Setting aside the mishandled extra-point attempt against Washington, the working relationship between the long-snapper and the holder as been solid throughout the season during the 41 extra points and 17 field goal attempts. Van Meter credits long snapper Nick Sundberg for much of their success.

"Nick makes it easy," said Van Meter.  "He's so good at what he does. You always know that where he snaps the ball will always be within a one square-foot area."

During the middle of the season, when starting quarterback Nate Longshore missed one game due to an injury and saw light action in practice during other weeks as a precautionary measure, Van Meter saw an increased number of reps in practice. Other than that, not much about his game week routine varied.  Throughout the season, Longshore, Riley, and Van Meter have all gotten reps in practice, while Brock Mansion has thrown with the scout team.  After most practices, all the quarterbacks will stay late to work on technique, go over signals, and review film. The idea is to give everybody enough work so that if an emergency situation arises, the offense will have someone who's prepared to execute the plays. 

"The preparation doesn't change," says Van Meter. "Even though Nate wasn't getting reps, we would all still go over the game plan and not much would be different."

With the Big Game looming ahead as well as a likely bowl game, there's still a lot of season left. Besides the chance to finish the year on an up note, it's also a chance to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully be a bounceback season for the Bears in 2008.

It will also give Van Meter something to build upon.  Instead of going into next year waiting for a Rudy moment and a bit of playing time at the tail end of a late season game, he'll know that he can play a key role on a top football team.

"I couldn't have asked for anything more," said Van Meter.  "To be on the team, to have success this year, and to be able to contribute more.  It's been a great atmosphere, it's been been first class academically and I'm here with a bunch of great student-athletes."


©Copyright 2007, TheBearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nationwide Insiders network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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For every high-profile high-school student-athlete who's being wooed by colleges to come play for their school, there are dozens of Bryan Van Meters; student-athletes who are accomplished football players and outstanding students, but face a crossroads about what to do with their future.  Do they put their sport first, and look for opportunities to play and subordinate their education, or does education become the top priority while they keep hoping for an opportunity in their sport that may never come.

Van Meter chose the second route, and thanks to some persistence on his part and a lot of hard work in the interim, he's seen action in every game this season as the holder on extra points and field goals, plays a significant role in relaying signals to the quarterbacks, and has gotten numerous reps during practice as a reserve quarterback.

The 6-1 junior's path to Cal was considerably different than most of his teammates.  Even though he was a first-team all-league quarterback at Aptos High School, and led his team to league, section, and Division II titles, he wasn't even all that certain that he had a future in football.  As a result, he based his college choice on what the best scholastic fit would be.

"I wasn't recruited much coming out of high school so I was looking at schools academically," said Van Meter, who's had the chance to toss footballs with fellow Aptos High grad and current 49er quarterback Trent Dilfer. "I knew Cal was prestigious and I would have loved to come here."

Van Meter dutifully filled out his college applications, and once he was accepted by Cal, quickly decided that's where he wanted to go.

While the easiest thing for him to do would have been to call it a career, look back on his high school days with fond memories, get on with being a college student and become king of intramurals, he wasn't about to let football slip away that easily.  At the time, the Bears were coming off of an 8-6 record in 2003, and with Aaron Rodgers and company were poised for a big year in 2004. But he never allowed himself to think that what Cal was on the threshold of accomplishing would be something that was beyond his reach. 

"I wanted to play football, and I would have loved to come here do anything I could to play," said Van Meter.

So during the spring of his senior year, the phone calls went back and forth between him and the football office and numbers had to be calculated and re-calculated, because of the fluid nature of college football rosters.  From injury issues that keep people from playing another year, to others who graduated or decided it was time to move on to something different, Van Meter had to wait for the rosters to settle to see if  he'd get a chance.

"After the season, they talked to me about possibly have a spot to walk-on, but there were restrictions about how many people they could have in camp, so they didn't know if they'd have an open spot," said Van Meter, who's majoring in business administration and likes golfing during the off-season. "I got a call and talked with the coaches and they were unsure if they had a spot.  At the end of the school year I got a call and they said they had a spot available."

Van Meter redshirted during 2004, and didn't see any game action in 2005 or 2006. This past spring, an opportunity to be the holder opened up. 

"In spring, [the competition] was between Kevin (Riley) and me, but then Kevin broke his finger and I've had it ever since," said Van Meter, who was the winningest quarterback in Aptos history and set a school record for most passing yards in a season   "It's a way for me get on the field.  It's become so natural to me that I don't think about it when I'm out there."

As the primary holder, Van Meter had to hold for Tom Schneider during fall camp, but since Schneider suffered an injured quad shortly before the season opener against Tennessee, he's been holding for Jordan Kay.   The change of kickers didn't throw Van Meter off.

"It's no different to me," said Van Meter.  "You have to get set at the right distance, and you have to get ready for the kicker.  After that, it's not so hard.  Tom and Jordan are both similar in timing. They've also worked together for a few years and they're very similar so there hasn't been a big difference in working with the different kickers."

Setting aside the mishandled extra-point attempt against Washington, the working relationship between the long-snapper and the holder as been solid throughout the season during the 41 extra points and 17 field goal attempts. Van Meter credits long snapper Nick Sundberg for much of their success.

"Nick makes it easy," said Van Meter.  "He's so good at what he does. You always know that where he snaps the ball will always be within a one square-foot area."

During the middle of the season, when starting quarterback Nate Longshore missed one game due to an injury and saw light action in practice during other weeks as a precautionary measure, Van Meter saw an increased number of reps in practice. Other than that, not much about his game week routine varied.  Throughout the season, Longshore, Riley, and Van Meter have all gotten reps in practice, while Brock Mansion has thrown with the scout team.  After most practices, all the quarterbacks will stay late to work on technique, go over signals, and review film. The idea is to give everybody enough work so that if an emergency situation arises, the offense will have someone who's prepared to execute the plays. 

"The preparation doesn't change," says Van Meter. "Even though Nate wasn't getting reps, we would all still go over the game plan and not much would be different."

With the Big Game looming ahead as well as a likely bowl game, there's still a lot of season left. Besides the chance to finish the year on an up note, it's also a chance to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully be a bounceback season for the Bears in 2008.

It will also give Van Meter something to build upon.  Instead of going into next year waiting for a Rudy moment and a bit of playing time at the tail end of a late season game, he'll know that he can play a key role on a top football team.

"I couldn't have asked for anything more," said Van Meter.  "To be on the team, to have success this year, and to be able to contribute more.  It's been a great atmosphere, it's been been first class academically and I'm here with a bunch of great student-athletes."

©Copyright 2007, TheBearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this online community and get access to the members-only content from the nationwide Insiders network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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