Carson Meger is as cool as an air conditioned igloo, both on the field and off. On the field, he makes his reads, has an instinctive feel for when to move to avoid a rush and when to tuck it away and get what he can on the ground.
Off the field, he has the ability to say all of the right things-all of those things that savvy players have learned to say. But, he also talks naturally about football in the same, knowledgeable way. He says the right things without them coming out sounding canned or rehearsed. They sound natural. Just like him-natural.
In his first interview since getting his first real start (he started in the SMU game but was pulled after the first play, a punishment for the starting quarterback, Nick Lamaison, who had violated a team rule) Meger talked calmly about the experience, like it was something he had done a thousand times. As surprised and excited as everyone else was about his performance, many seemed to think Meger would be, and wanted to hear about it. But, he wasn’t surprised or excited about his performance. It was what he had always known. He smiled, he enjoyed others surprise and excitement, instead of them enjoying his. There was no indignation about their surprise. There was no desire to point out to them that they were surprised, but not him. There was no hint of triumph in proving doubters wrong. He’s way too cool for that kind of thing. He smiled, and enjoyed himself, but not at their expense or in a way they expected.
Carson Meger has a rare quality in an athlete at this level. He is one of the most competitive persons you will ever see, but he competes to win games. The game may be who can kick a punt that stops closest to the endzone without going in from the 50 yard line, or a football game. But, as much as he wants to win, and quite often does, he never loses the joy of playing a game. Win or lose. It’s just a game. Let’s play another.
When he was asked how it felt to finally get his first real start at the Division 1 level, the first sentence out of his mouth said it perfectly.
“It was fun,” he said. Then he went on, “Everybody comes to play, not to sit on the sidelines, so after waiting for my first two seasons and three games of this season, it was fun to finally strap up and get out and be in the huddle with the guys, and be out there with the team and run a whole game. So, it was a lot of fun. I had a whole lot of fun doing it.”
When asked if he expected to be the starter, this week, he handled it perfectly.
“You’ve got to prepare like you’re going to play, every week. I’m hoping I do, and if I do, I’ve got to make the most of it. If I don’t I’ve got to do my part from the sideline and be ready to play, if that comes to happen. But, we’ll just kind of have to see, and take it day by day, and see what happens.”
The reporter gave it another shot, from a slightly different angle, asking if expecting Nick Lamaison to start was maybe a misconception. Meger was too smart.
“I’m not sure. Like I said, we’ll have to take it day by day and see what happens,” he said, showing a little bit of a smile,”see how practice goes, and see where we go from today, and take today and roll tomorrow. Tomorrow might be a different answer, or it might be the same. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Asked if he felt like he had at least secured the number two spot, he again showed the same nimbleness that he uses to avoid on rushing defenders.
“With this team, and with football, as far as the quarterback situation, there’s a starter, and there’s everybody else. That’s just kind of how it is. Everybody’s got their own roll, and everybody’s got to take in that role, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got a role toplay on this team, and I’m going to play it, whether it be number two, or number three, what ever the role is, I’ve got to take that in and play that every week, and just be prepared to play, no matter what the situation is.”
Another big positive from the South Florida game was the play of the offensive line. After struggling to create the push needed to get the running game going in the Miners’ first three games, against the powerful, ranked Bulls, it seemed to be able to push the South Florida defensive line around with an unexpected ease. I asked Meger to talk about his offensive line coming off of their performance against a tough Bulls team.
“They did good. That was a fast, pretty creative, defensive line. The defense as a whole, and especially the linebackers had a lot of speed. The O-line did a heck of a job protecting me all night. They did a good job.”
Any nerves going into the game, I asked.
“No, not really. I mean, you might think there are, but like I said, everbody out here has played before. Nobody comes into Division 1 just never playing the game. Everybody’s played the game before, so once you get in between the lines and start playing it doesn’t matter how many people are in the stands, where you’re playing, or what the situation is. You just kind of roll with it, and it feels good to be back in it., that kind of deal. It was fun. Anxiety, not nervousness.”
Speaking of people in the stands, playing for state championships in Texas means playing in front of big crowds, so I asked him what the numbers were like when he played in the championships.
“In high school, the biggest crowd I played in front of was 39-40 thousand. That kind of gets you prepared for this. Like I said, whether it 40 thousand or three people in the stands, once you get in between the lines you don’t really realize who’s watching or how many people are in the stands until you do something big, and then you hear how many people. But, between the whistles, between the lines, you don’t really know or care who’s in the stands.”
Not when you are playing a game, and just having fun.