Making an Impact
Four men. Four lives in football. Four futures still left to play.
(page 8 of 9)
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
When Mike Meade looks at today’s NFL salaries, one thought pops into his head: “Envious. You can’t use any other word.”
In 1982 the Green Bay Packers drafted Meade, a fullback, in the fifth round, and signed him for $100,000. Adjusted for inflation, he says, that’s about $200,000 today.
“In my four-year career,” Meade says, “I wouldn’t have made as much as I would’ve made today just by being drafted in the same position.” He’s probably right. The 2009 rookie minimum salary is $310,000. The minimum for a four-year veteran, $620,000.
Meade may be a tad envious, but he has no regrets. From his spacious home in Dover, he leads a Norman Rockwellian life full of family and friends. He dotes on Gloria, his wife of 24 years, a microbiologist with the USDA; his daughter Jasmine, who is about to enter Brown University; and his 12-year-old son, J. R., who has some of his father’s athleticism.
By his senior year at Dover High, Meade was something of a local legend. A combination of size (6 feet, 230 pounds) and speed (4.5 in the 40) made him a top prospect. He also had excellent grades and SAT scores, and academics were a priority for him when he visited Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State.
He paid special attention to the African-American athletes he met on each campus. “I tried to determine through conversations what percentage of them would be in college if they couldn’t play ball,” he says. “At Stanford, of course, it was 100 percent. At Notre Dame it was high, but it wasn’t all of them.” At Penn State, the one player he had doubts about turned out to be a good student and his best friend.
Once he arrived on campus, Meade discovered everything in his world had suddenly become exponentially bigger—the players, the coaching staff and the classes. “In my first class—8 a.m. calculus—there must have been 350 students in this huge auditorium.”
Page 9: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, continues...