AMES — Senior defensive lineman Mitchell Meyers is listed second on the Cyclone depth chart at the “Leo” position. That the Houston, TX native is even in Ames is a testament to his courage.
Meyers stands 6-4 and is listed at 255 pounds. He played in every game his freshman year, then started every contest as a sophomore. His junior season was missed because of “the ‘c’ word” — cancer, in his case, Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Approximately 8,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, with nearly 70,000 cases of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma — the less severe version — also reported.
Meyers said he first noticed something might be wrong when his neck began to swell after a workout early last year. A trip to the doctor on a Monday revealed the cancer, and by Friday of that week he began undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Mary Greeley Cancer Center in Ames.
After months of treatment he returned to Houston for additional therapy, including a stem cell transplant. Doing so prevented Meyers from playing last year, and while was able to work out and lift weights, he could not do so in any kind of official capacity with the team until he was able to re-enroll at the university for summer classes.
A Supply Management major, he would have graduated in May, but missing two semesters threw off his schedule.
“I am back on track now and will graduate at the end of May (2017), no problem,” he said. “I need 18 credits, so I am in good shape.”
Being in good shape physically has required something akin to a Herculean effort, but one Meyers demanded of himself.
“I guess I got a bad draw by having the more difficult type,” Meyers told ThePerryNews.com in April, noting the survival rates make the immune system disorder “one of the better types of cancer — if there is such a thing — that you can have, if you have to get it in the first place.”
Meyers insisted at the time that he wanted to return to the team and make a positive impact as a player on the field.
“I know there is no way of avoiding being ‘the guy who overcame cancer and came back to play’ because that is just going to be my life from now on,” he said. “People will always be asking me about the cancer, and I am fine with that, because it gives me a chance to tell someone they can do whatever they set their mind to do. What I want to do is get out there and make a difference as a player, and not as some cheerleader-in-uniform-inspirational-guy on the sidelines.”
Now there appears to be the very real likelihood that is exactly what will happen.
“I am in about as good a physical condition as I have ever been,” Meyers said Tuesday during ISU’s Media Day. “It feels good to be back working with the team, and I have been putting everything I can into our practices.”
Meyers, like all the Cyclones, had to make an impression on head coach Matt Campbell and a whole new coaching staff this season, coaches who were not intimately familiar with each player.
“It was the same for everybody — all of us had to kind of start over again, like we were making new introductions of ourselves as players and what we could do,” he explained. “I like our new coaches. They have been helpful and supportive and are letting us show them what we can do, which is all you can ask for.”
After being away for a year, how will does Meyers think he will feel running out of the tunnel for the ‘first’ time?
“I get that question all the time,” he laughed. “To tell you the honest truth, I am not even thinking about that moment. Right now I am so focused on our fall camp and improving every day that I really haven’t given it much thought. I am sure it will be a great feeling, but getting out there and making some plays will feel even better.”
Given the courage and drive he has, and continues to, display, it would be unwise to expect that moment to be more that just a few weeks away.
Friends and teammates helped support Meyers during his recovery and even raised money for their friend, as we reported in April.
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