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AMES — Matt Campbell vividly remembers what Mitchell Meyers told him in the spring.
Iowa State’s senior defensive end had been in a fight against cancer since February 2015 and was at the end of two rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and radiation treatment. Even after beating cancer, Meyers wasn’t done fighting.
Now his mission was to reclaim his spot on the field and he made that perfectly clear to his head coach.
“Mitchell’s last words to me (this spring) were, ‘I’m coming back to play, I’m not going to be just a story,’” Campbell said. “All of a sudden you watch him through the summer and it was really interesting and fascinating to see him conditioning. He’s at the front of the line and not at the back of the line.”
That endurance and sheer willpower carried Meyers through fall camp all the way to Monday when he was listed as the starting defensive end for the season opener. Iowa State hosts Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Two years ago, Meyers started every game on the defensive line — playing mostly as a down lineman — and recorded 30 tackles. The Woodlands, Texas, native is right back in the position he was in the 2014 season finale, but the fine details of what he preserved through in the last 20 months is what makes it significant.
“I think if you were going to tell me I was going to get cancer two years ago, I would have never believed you,” Meyers said. “And if you were to tell me that I was going to be in the position that I am now six months ago, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. So I’m just kind of taking everything day by day. Right now I’m in a really good position to succeed and I’m just going to keep moving forward.”
Meyers is cancer free and hasn’t been under restrictions since the summer when he began the Cyclones summer workout program. But he isn’t sure what his snap count might be. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has had to get used to his “new normal” and post-cancer ability, but hasn’t lost his knack for being assignment sound.
When Iowa State ushered in its new coaching staff, Meyers wasn’t on the field for spring practice, but was able to pick up schemes and learn techniques simultaneously with his teammates. He also was named one of the Cyclones’ four captains last week by his teammates.
“He brings that approach of attitude and effort every single day,” said senior linebacker Kane Seeley. “Two years ago he started, what, every game and played every game the year before that? He’s not a stranger to the field. He’s a great player and understands the schemes and he’ll be ready to go this season.”
Meyers set out to be a contributor this season and won’t settle for anything less.
That doesn’t mean he’s blind to the significance of running out of the tunnel Saturday night and what it will mean to people looking to him as an inspiration.
“I think everybody knows my story,” Meyers said. “I don’t go out of my way to let them know my story because they already kind of understand it. So for me I just do the best I can every day and hopefully bring some guys along with me.”
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