April 18, 2014
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Making a return to 11-man football wasn't as much of an issue for University of Iowa junior Nate Meier as sticking with a position.
Meier, who once rushed for 500 yards in an 8-man game and scored 57 touchdowns in his senior season at Freemont-Mills (Iowa) High School, began his career in the Hawkeye offensive backfield. He then went to linebacker, back to running back, to fullback, back to linebacker, and finally to defensive end where he appears to have found a home.
Now Meier is an important ingredient in the UI's quest to provide depth at the defensive end position that includes senior Mike Hardy, and juniors Drew Ott and Riley McMinn. He is listed behind Ott at left end on the spring depth chart.
"Nate Meier is really coming on," UI defensive line coach Reese Morgan said. "I would say that Nate Meier is a tough son-of-a-gun. He's really doing things where he's a 235, 240-pound guy taking on a 300 pound tackle, and I think he's demonstrated to us that he can be an every down guy."
Meier is from Tabor, Iowa, and the school district he graduated from has less than 450 students in grades K-12. His high school is almost a straight shot east of Lincoln, Neb., home of the Cornhuskers. Meier selected the UI over Nebraska and Iowa State.
"When I met with the (Iowa) players, they were one group. At other schools they were all about themselves," Meier said. "I liked (head coach Kirk) Ferentz and the coaching staff here. That's what really sold me."
Meier has played 11-man football most of his life, except for a two-year span as a high school junior and senior. And what a journey that was. From 2010-11, Freemont-Mills won 25-of-26 games, including the 2011 state championship with an 81-0 victory against Murray. Meier gained 218 rushing yards in the title game, not even half the output he had Oct. 21 when he picked up 500 against East Mills.
As a senior, Meier averaged more than 14 yards a carry (2,494 total rushing yards) with 57 touchdowns. For his two-year 8-man career, Meier carried the ball 365 times for 4,168 yards (11.4) and 87 touchdowns. He also made 238 tackles, 63 for a loss.
It was tough for Meier to let go of being a running back, but the Hawkeyes are loaded at that position with seniors Damon Bullock and Mark Weisman, junior Jordan Canzeri, sophomores LeShun Daniels and Barkley Hill, and freshmen Jonathan Parker, Akrum Wadley, and Andrew Wellik.
Meier moved to defensive end last spring. During the 2013 season he saw action in all 13 games, recording five tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry.
"I am seeing my biggest improvement in the run game," Meier said. "Defensive end is a pretty physical position and most of the time -- especially on third downs -- it's one-on-one, so whoever is better is going to win."
The Hawkeyes conclude their fourth week of spring practice Saturday. The annual Spring Game is Saturday, April 26, inside Kinnick Stadium.
"I want to keep on getting better every day," Meier said. "I keep trying to work hard to move up the depth chart."