As "Cougar Tracks" readers are by now aware, we're breaking in a new sideline guy on KSL's BYU Football broadcasts this season. Marc Lyons and I are looking forward to working with former Cougar Scott Johnson, but we're definitely going to miss ex-BYU receiver and return man Nate Meikle, who made the successful transition from helmet to headset and excelled as our sideline reporter for the last three seasons.
As the 2010 Cougar Football campaign approaches, Nate is preparing to leave BYU's backyard for Stanford Law School. You're about to read something that illustrates why he departs as a favorite with fans, former coaches, teammates and broadcast colleagues alike.
Earlier today, Nate sent me a document that he wanted me to post here on "Cougar Tracks," for you to read. What follows are Nate Meikle's words--his reflections on Bronco Mendenhall, and his time spent with BYU and KSL.
You will note a few comments that are complimentary toward yours truly, and while it is very awkward and embarrassing to post them, I am genuinely honored by Nate's appreciation and humbled by his kindness.
You will also take a trip down memory lane as Nate unveils his personal BYU "honor roll" of sorts. That's a fun read.
So, as Nate says "so long," we say "thank you, and good luck." You'll always be a Cougar.
"Nate's Notes: Final Edition"
by Nate Meikle
After several years of hoping to become the next Marc Lyons, my hopes suddenly took a left turn in April when I was admitted to law school in California. I count my experience with BYU Football as one of the greatest of my life.
The program has become an integral part of who I am, having experienced the program from the perspective of walk-on, scout team player, starter, conference champion, former player, and media member. As a farewell of sorts, I asked Greg if I could share a few thoughts about my experience with the program.
On Bronco Mendenhall
In 2002, while traveling to southeastern New Mexico to play New Mexico Military, our Snow College football team made a stop at the University of New Mexico. After a light practice, we had a quick meeting with the Lobos' defensive coordinator, Bronco Mendenhall. To say he lit a fire in all of us would be a gross understatement. Every player on our team walked out of that meeting singing the same song of, "How sweet would it be to play for that guy!" Three years later my song became a reality.
As a walk-on scout-teamer at BYU, one of my first goals was to eventually receive a scholarship to help defray the costs of school. After a year on the scout team, followed by a year starting at WR, I got the phone call that was a culmination of sorts. Over the Christmas break, following our Vegas Bowl loss to Cal, Coach Mendenhall called and offered me a scholarship. I blushed, I got choked up, and I expressed my gratitude. It was a phone call I will always remember, but not because I was receiving financial aid. That phone call was a culmination because it symbolized to me that I had earned Coach Mendenhall's trust. The money, in comparison, was a non-issue.
Coach Mendenhall is the greatest leader I have ever known. He is the consummate teacher, mentor, advocate, and friend. He endlessly pushes his players to their breaking point, and then asks them to give more, much much more. Then you learn something about yourself that he knew all along-—that you are stronger than you once believed. That's why we're willing to "run through a brick wall" for him. That's why we love him. Because when you're standing all alone on the field, looking up to the sky waiting for the punt to come down, wondering if you're going to catch it, you remember there is one guy on the sideline that knows you are going to catch it. And he is right.
Coach never demands more from his players than he demands of himself. "I will not get tired!" he told us in one of his first meetings as the new head coach. "You can try me, but I will not change!" At the time he was addressing some players who were testing his rules. I have now come to see that the statement applies to his mindset as a person. He will not stop believing in his players.
He will not get tired of helping us achieve our "personal best," on the football field to be sure, but more importantly, in life. Many people have asked me what its like to play for Coach Mendenhall. The answer to that questions is simply, "Read John Wooden's book, ‘My Personal Best' and you'll know what its like."
As a player, I remember the first time Greg ever interviewed me--fall camp of '05. Later that day I got online and pulled up the audio from the interview on a website that would evolve into "Cougar Tracks." My first impression of Greg was, "This guy really knows his stuff." The other impression I had of Greg was, "This guy REALLY knows his stuff and I feel like he's pulling for me." (the only other interview I specifically remember with Greg was in 2005, while I was sitting outside the locker room at Qualcomm Stadium, at a loss for words after the beat down SDSU had just laid on us)
After a 2007 fall camp practice, Greg asked me if I'd be interested in becoming the new sideline reporter. I ecstatically went home and broke the news to my wife. She would later comment that she hadn't seen me that happy since the previous football season (I'm assuming our wedding day trumps everything since it was a different kind of happy).
My first game as a reporter was the BYU/Arizona rematch. I have four distinct memories of that game:
1) Harvey Unga was a baaaaad man
2) Max Hall was the real deal
3) Our 2007 defense was rock solid
4) Greg Wrubell works just as hard as the players.
I want to thank Greg for letting me work alongside him these last three years. Covering the games with Greg and Marc has been a life-highlight. A day doesn't go by without me first checking in on "Cougar Tracks" to read what Greg has to say (and just like all of you, I get frustrated when Greg goes on vacation).
People from all around the globe call in to hear what Greg has to say about the games. I was fortunate to have been able to sit there next to him. As I sat next to him in Washinton, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and Lavell Edwards Stadium, I didn't feel like Nate Meikle the reporter; I sat there as Nate Meikle the fan-—the fan of BYU and of Greg Wrubell (and of course the long-time-legend Marc Lyons).
I will miss the games, the travel, the nice hotels, the great food, and the call-in show. But more than anything, I will miss the post-game dinners at Outback, where I got to ask Greg my questions for another hour.
Lastly, I have listed some of my favorite BYU moments from the last several years. Having been field-level for all of these moments, either as a player or as a reporter, these moments have become cemented in my memory. Going through all of these plays/players makes me remember why it was so difficult to make that phone call to Greg, telling him that I was moving to California.
Thanks for all the memories, BYU and KSL.
1) Austin Collie running wild in Tulsa.
2) Methodically dismantling TCU at home.
3) 4th and 18.
4) Manumaleuna at the Vegas Bowl against UCLA.
1) "Janimal" going Manumaleuna on Locker's Huskies.
3) Gartrell Johnson chest bumping Joey Porter only to be outdone by Pitta in the back of the endzone.
1) Max Hall: "We're gonna win! We're gonna win!"
2) George in OT.
3) Wind-swept beat down of the Beavers.
Tough. His results speak for themselves. One of my all-time favorite coaches.
Trucking Utes on his way to the game-winning touchdown in 2007.
Separating his shoulder against Wyoming in 2007, finishing the game, and then seven days later throwing a bomb to "AC" on 4th and 18. Not to mention the game winning drives against UNLV, AFA, CSU, and Oklahoma.
"J-Rob" (Justin Robinson)
60-yard interception return for a TD against USU. Never backed down from anyone and let all the receivers know it.
"Janimal" (Jan Jorgensen)
Sacks, sacks, and more sacks. If the third quarter had hit and we hadn't seen a big play from Jan yet, I would often go on air and say, "We still have a big play from Jan to look forward to" and Jan seemed to always deliver.
"The General" (Cameron Jensen)
Just seeing him at middle backer every game let us all know that our opponent was going to score few, if any, points. In the words of Coach Mendenhall, "One of the best leaders I have ever known."
"K-Pop" (Kelly Poppinga)
Knifing through TCU's defense again and again in 2007 to make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage. Fumble recovery/return against TCU in '07 helped seal the deal.
A freak. Chasing down the UCLA guy from behind is forever lodged in my memory.
"AC" (Austin Collie)
10 catches against UCLA's best defender. Chalk him up for a 100-yard game before the game even starts.
"Criddler" (Ben Criddle)
His shimmy against AZ in '06. Criddle was always in position and always making plays.
Blowing up lead back Eric Weddle so badly that Weddle landed on the ball carrier. I can also see Kayle at the Rose Bowl running with the ball he intercepted.
Punt return TD against Wyoming as well as the game-winning TD against Oklahoma. I look forward to a lot more big plays.
"Gabe" (Dustin Gabriel)
Interception for a TD against SDSU. Also gave me my first-ever concussion in a spring practice.
"Hutch" (Nate Hutchinson)
Instead of celebrating McKay's punt return TD, Hutch was jawing at the other team. Never backed down from anyone.
Beck-to-Harline is the obvious choice, but the 4th-and-1 to Matt Allen against TCU in '06 was symbolic as well.
TD catch against Wyoming in ‘06.
TD run for 80+ yards against UNLV.
Torn ACL. Bright, bright future cut short by injury.
Utah 2006, of course, but also the one-handers against Wyoming, Utah, and TCU.
Speed, speed, and more speed. Running by TCU defenders all day long in 2006.
10 yard out for a TD against New Mexico in 2006. The turning point of our season.
Coming in as a defensive lineman, switching to O-line his junior year, and becoming a team captain his senior year.
Notre Dame, 2004; to "AC" down the sideline.
"CB" (Curtis Brown)
Long third down conversion against TCU in '06 symbolized everything Curtis did for the team and the program.
"DC" (Dan Coats)
My pre-game roomie. Came to BYU at 165 lbs and left a ripped 240. Four-catch drive including a TD to give us the lead against UT in 06.
TD catch against SDSU in '06. Collie was a model of consistency.
Blowing up the Arizona receiver in '06 and then walking over to the crowd and letting them know exactly what he just did.
Had diabetes and still made plays his entire career, especially with his big interception against Wyoming in '05.
Pick to seal the win at AFA.
Losing part of his finger and still finishing the SDSU game returning kicks.
Stepping in for Unga against Oklahoma.
Beating up everyone physically and taking the trash talk to a bit more intellectual level. Jake to Jerry Hughes: "I'm going to kick your butt again this year." Jerry Hughes: "It's a new year." Jake: "Right, so you admit I kicked your butt last year."
Pick against Wyoming in ‘05 to seal our first bowl appearance since '01.
Coming up big against Utah in '06 on the last drive.
TD at New Mexico in '05, followed by the huge role he played for the team in 2007.
Choke-slamming a blitzing AFA linebacker in '05. Blowing up the Ute LB along the sideline in '05 wasn't bad either.
Finishing the Eco Challenge with his arm in a cast.
Jumping over the pile with Cam Jensen. Suffered one of the most gruesome injuries I've ever seen and still made it back for his senior year and helped lead one of BYU's all-time great defensive squads.
The TD run against Oregon State when he ran over two defenders at the same time. That clip didn't get replayed enough.
"Wags" (Aaron Wagner)
Weight room animal with a nose for the ball.
Fumble recovery for TD against USU in '08.
"Scotty J" (Scott Johnson)
Setting the tone for the 59-0 beatdown of UCLA by breaking their RB's femur and causing a fumble early on.
From walk-on to starter, all the while as the smartest player on the team.
Forcing the Jeff Ballard fumble at TCU in '06.
Fumble recovery for TD against Oregon State, capping off a great career that started as a walk on.
Utah. OT. '09.
"JP" (Jordan Pendleton)
Making plays all day against Oklahoma, including the goal line pass deflection.
Game-winning catch against CSU with his trademark helmet popping off.
Breaking ten tackles in one run against Tulsa in '06. The TD run at AFA where he rolled over the pile and kept running was classic as well.
Consistent, consistent, consistent. Played in every game as a freshman and never dropped a ball. The touchdown against Oregon State in ‘09 was huge.
Never fair-caught a punt. His punt return against Utah in ‘09 was a huge momentum lift.
A walk-on safety who would eventually become the most accurate kicker ever at BYU.
From walk-on to starter. His interception in '04 against Wyoming was huge.
J.J. Di Luigi
An amazing sideline catch v. SDSU for a huge first down last season.
Playmaker that loved to fly around even with his bum knees.
Getting called for a personal foul against Utah in 2008 for delivering one of the best hits I have ever seen.
An all-time favorite. One of the country's leaders in passes defended last year and always plays with endless energy and excitement.
Made life difficult for USU's Borel all game long in '08.
"The Stork" (Matt Putnam)
His pick against UCLA showed his big-time athleticism.
Set a great example for the program by serving a mission after his senior season. I loved watching him fly around this last year, making plays and jumping on piles.
Greg Wrubell and Marc Lyons
We'll always have "Snaps."
"TRUE BLUE NEVER FADES. BYU FOOTBALL ON KSL."
Follow me on Twitter (@gregwrubell)