Making an Impact
Four men. Four lives in football. Four futures still left to play.
(page 9 of 9)
He knew grades were important to Paterno, who discourages a “jock culture” at Penn State, but he didn’t realize how important until he was summoned to the coach’s office one day in his freshman year.
“My mind was on all these football scenarios,” he says. “Are they going to start me at fullback? Or did they decide I’m not good enough to play here?”
When he got to the office, Paterno said, “I have your grades here, Mike, and you’re a better student than this. I thought you would be one of the leaders on this team in the classroom.”
Meade laughs at the memory “The thing is, I had a 2.75, which was second or third in my [recruiting] class. But he berated me for five or 10 minutes. ”
Meade earned his degree in business management, but his grades never got better than that 2.75. “Penn State is a party school, and I enjoyed it,” he says. (Later, in pro ball, he encountered players from other colleges who were surprised that he even had to attend classes.)
The talent at Penn State (12 Nittany Lions were drafted in 1982, and three others signed as free agents) and the intensity of practices made his transition to the NFL relatively easy, but he soon understood that “24-seven, you were a football player.
“I didn’t think that was possible, because I didn’t think there was that much to talk about,” he says. “C’mon. This is football. You hit the guy a little harder than he hits you and you win the ball game.”
After suffering a broken leg his rookie season, Meade came back to be the Packers’ starting fullback in 1983. But the game took its toll. On Mondays, as he painfully negotiated the steps in his Green Bay apartment, he was convinced he would never be able to play on Sunday. But somehow, he was always ready at game time.
Cut by the Packers, he was picked up by the Lions and played in Detroit for two more years. But a balky knee reduced his speed. He failed to make it through training camp in ’86.
“I had a good time in the NFL, and I had my degree, so it was time to move on to the real world,” he says.
He and Gloria bought a house in Pike Creek. In ’89 they moved to their current home in Dover. Meade has made some investments, started a short-lived sports apparel franchise and, for the past several years, has been a sales consultant. He currently represents advertisinghealthy.com, an advertising service utilizing flat-screen LCD TVs set up in business areas with high foot traffic.
The product of strong, nurturing parents, Meade is a proud father who fills the same role for his kids, helping to coach J.R.’s teams and taking Jasmine on her decisive visit to Brown. A pound or 10 heavier than his playing weight, he does the stair stepper and some circuit training at a local gym, and his arms still bulge out of a short-sleeved shirt. But the only sport he plays now is the occasional round of golf.
In six years the 49-year-old Meade will be eligible for an NFL pension, but he holds no loyalty for the Packers or Lions. He understands that pro ball is strictly business. He does root for Penn State and stays in touch with many teammates, both college and pro.
“I don’t miss the brutality,” he says, “but I do miss the camaraderie.”