INDIANOLA — Joe Meyer knew what he was getting into when he arrived at Simpson.
He understood the adjustment to the speed and overall talent difference football players experience transitioning from high school to college. The Storm also had running back Cam Bunting, a senior last year who earned all-conference honors his last two seasons.
Meyer was determined to make his mark and tried to learn from one of the top American Rivers Conference rushers, while taking advantage of any opportunity to get on the field.
“The last couple years I’ve just tried to take what I can get,” said Meyer, a former Cedar Rapids Prairie all-state running back. “A lot of punt returns and kick returns and then getting whatever carries I could. Just a lot of hard work and eventually I worked my way up.”
He has stepped into Bunting’s cleats quite nicely this season, picking up where his predecessor left off — as the A-R-C’s top rusher. Meyer leads the league with 597 yards on 125 carries, entering Saturday’s home showdown with 14th-ranked Wartburg (6-0, 4-0 A-R-C) for sole possession of first place.
The Storm are 4-1 overall and 3-0 in league play after last week’s bye.
“It’s been a pretty exciting season, so far,” Meyer said. “Obviously, leading the league is something I really wanted in the beginning of the year, but really I’ve been more excited about how the team has played in general.
“We’re set up for a good place, where we wanted to be. A lot of it goes to the coaches and guys up front.”
One of the biggest transitions was the game’s quickness, Meyer said that every college player is fast and good. Not even the tough Class 4A competition he faced in high school can match.
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“Learning that you can’t outrun everyone, especially with my speed,” said Meyer, noting the sport became a year-round endeavor as well. “Getting back to the basics with patience and using your eyes. That was the biggest adjustment I had to make right away.”
Meyer produced an impressive prep career, setting single-season school rushing records for yards (1,620) and touchdowns (32) his senior season in 2016. He studied Bunting’s tendencies and his ability to read blocks. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior, considered a top recruit by the coaching staff, showed glimpses of potential as early as his first year, but emerged as a top option during spring workouts.
“The thing that makes Joe a tough running back is his vision and patience,” Storm Coach Matt Jeter said. “He can put his foot in the ground and get north and south better than anyone in our league and when he gets to the second level he’s able to make that first guy miss.”
Modest numbers resulted from the first two games, scoring a touchdown in a loss to No. 10 Bethel (Minn.) in Week 1. The A-R-C opener against Dubuque proved to be Meyer’s big-time performance.
“I would say Dubuque game was his breakout,” Jeter said, “but you definitely saw sparks against Bethel and University of Chicago.”
Meyer rushed for 154 yards against UD, sparking the first of three straight 100-yard performances, heading into Saturday. He added 120 yards against Buena Vista and 206 yards on 34 carries with a TD in the 29-21 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan.
“It was the opening of the gate for me,” Meyer said. “I was kind of comfortable in a way I haven’t been in a long time. I think that really boosted my confidence.
“We were able to run a lot of inside zones and a lot of power. The guys up front were making a lot of movement.”
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Meyer participates in 7-on-7 work in Indianola on Sundays during the summer, but spends most of his time in Cedar Rapids. He continues to work out and run at his alma mater in the morning before helping with summer academic programs.
The two-time A-R-C all-academic performer owns aspirations to be a teacher and probably delve into coaching someday. The history major and secondary education minor is working on a special education endorsement as well. He has had good mentors along the way.
“I’ve been blessed with some really good coaches,” Meyer said. “I’ve learned a lot. It is something I eventually want to pick up as I get into teaching more.”
Jeter said Meyer possesses all the traits he wants in a player.
“Joe is just a solid person on and off the field,” Jeter said. “He excels in the classroom. He embodies everything we look for in players — high character, excels academically and talented football player.”
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