Meier thriving in transition to NFL

For most fans of Kansas Jayhawks football, the number "10" will forever be associated with a handful of key attributes and events.

Selflessness, for example. After losing the starting quarterback job to Todd Reesing prior to the 2007 season, it would have been easy for Kerry Meier – owner of the crimson and blue number 10 jersey since 2005 – to check out mentally.

Long story short, he didn't. Precisely the opposite, in fact, which brings us to the second item associated with the number 10 in Jayhawks football lore.

Sticky hands is another attribute inextricably linked with the number 10. When the Kansas coaches announced Meier would be working part-time with the receivers early in 2007, Jayhawk Nation nodded in tentative approval.

It couldn't hurt, right? Big and athletic, and with Ed Warriner's newly-installed spread offense involving a streamingly endless supply of receivers, the switch seemed a natural one.

But nobody could have anticipated those hands. During the next three years, whenever Reesing would let the football fly toward his most reliable target, the result of the play became a foregone conclusion. For Meier, the difficult became routine, and seemingly impossible became merely difficult.

Of everything that springs to mind when Jayhawk fans contemplate Meier's career at Kansas, however, it all pales in comparison to the last item on this abbreviated list:

November 29, 2008.

Or, to put it more succintly, "Reesing to Meier."

Every true blue Kansas fan knows the meaning behind those words. With snow swirling all around and the Jayhawks down to their last play, Reesing danced his way to a moment's clarity in the face of the Missouri Tigers pass rush, and lofted the ball toward the endzone – where Meier was waiting.

A 33-37 deficit became a 40-37 lead, as the Jayhawks pulled an astonishing victory from the jaws of defeat at the hands of their hated rival.

But things look a little different for Meier now. Gone are the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan., and no longer is Reesing the one firing passes his way.

When the Atlanta Falcons called his name in the fifth-round of April's NFL draft, Kerry Meier became a pro – though for him it's a reality that has yet to sink in.

"Truthfully speaking, I still quite don't feel like I'm there yet," Meier said, from Falcons training camp Aug. 12. "Each day I'm getting closer and closer, but I feel like I'm still in transition to becoming an NFL football player."

Though if the level of his play in indication, the Jayhawks career leader in receptions (226) has already arrived.

While a spot on the final roster is always far from a guarantee with the average fifth-round draft pick, Meier has opened eyes at Falcons camp thus far with his high level of play. Continuing his penchant for snagging everything in sight, the newly-christened Number 80 is currently being cross-trained at three different wide receiver positions, and excelling no matter where he lines up.

In the first NFL action of his career, Meier caught two passes for 27 yards during an Aug. 13 pre-season contest with the Kansas City Chiefs.

With veteran wideout Michael Jenkins sidelined due to injury, the former Kansas star's talents and work ethic have put him in prime position to not only make the team, but to contribute as a rookie.

Characteristically, Meier is taking nothing for granted.

"The way I see it is, I haven't done a dang thing yet," he said. "I'm still a rookie, I'm going to be a rookie this entire season."

Regarding the transition from collegiate to professional, Meier said the speed of the game has taken a definite leap forward. Aside from the talent differential, however, perhaps the most eye-opening revelation has been just how self-dependent the game becomes, both on and off the field.

If you want to be great, he explained, you're going to have to do it yourself.

"In college, you have your team and your coaches that are pushing you," Meier said. "And if you don't do stuff (such as off-season workouts) they're going to punish you. But at this level it's all upon you. You get what you put into it."

It's an eminently level-headed approach to life as a professional Meier has taken, but Kansas fans know to expect nothing less.

When the glitz and glamour are stripped away, at the end of the day it's still about football. And that's a game he understands very well indeed.

"I understand that there's a lot of other stuff that goes on, but at the same time, it's football," Meier said. "Don't let anybody fool you. It's the game of football, and when you get down to the nuts and bolts and strip all the fat away, it's just a bunch of men playing a game that we all love. What's important is keeping your head on straight and taking care of your business when you have to."

Things are going to look a little different for Kansas fans this year, during fall Saturdays in Memorial Stadium. Gone are the likes of Reesing and Meier, Jake Sharp, Darrell Stuckey and Dezmon Briscoe – cornerstones of some of the best teams in the program's history.

But though he may have moved on to the next stage of his athletic career – and indeed, his life – a piece of Number 10 will always reside on Mount Oread."

"I enjoyed every second of my time in Lawrence, and I'm definitely going to miss it," Meier said. "Hopefully, one of these days down the road when I'm done playing football, I can definitely see myself moving back to Lawrence and going back, watching KU be a great team."


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