By Cincinnati Enquirer
P.J. Meyer wasn’t supposed to be here.
Not on a football field, in a Wilmington College victory, scoring two touchdowns in the opening game of his senior season.
A special set of circumstances led to this moment on Sept. 2 for the Elder High School graduate.
Meyer did not play varsity football for the Panthers, focusing on wrestling instead after his freshman year. Even that pursuit was cut short when Meyer suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder prior to his senior wrestling season.
After deciding to attend Wilmington and give football another try after a three-year layoff, Meyer was not surprisingly buried on the depth chart. He caught just seven passes over his first two seasons. The Quakers won just one game over his first three seasons. But Meyer was a bright spot in a winless 2016 season, hauling in 42 receptions for 621 yards.
In the offseason, the Quakers hired a new head coach. Bryan Moore and his new staff re-energized the program. The Quakers won just three games from 2009 through 2016. They already have one victory in 2017, a convincing 49-20 victory over Earlham.
All of the adversity that Meyer endured over the past four years made the season-opening win that much sweeter. He caught just two passes, but both went for touchdowns. He scored the first touchdown of the season in the first quarter, then hauled in an impressive 80-yard catch-and-run just before halftime.
“I try to stay humble,” said Meyer. “I know I’m capable of doing these things.”
Said Moore of Meyer, “He’s one of the great stories of what you can do being a natural athlete and getting in here and adapting. He works so darn hard at it. To see him especially have success having never experienced high school football, and to come out here and do it in the first game of his senior year, I’m so happy and proud of him.”
The Quakers also tied a program record with 381 rushing yards, keyed in large part by another Cincinnati product. Northwest High School graduate Sterling Clark helped pave the way in the record-breaking effort.
“He’s the anchor. He’s the biggest kid on the team, one of the hardest workers, and the biggest voice on the team,” said Moore. “When you have guys like that, you can build a program around that, when your best players are your hardest workers and your best leaders.”
The two seniors have been instrumental in leading the program through the coaching change and in showing their younger teammates how to persevere and weather adversity.
“There were some dark days in the past and I feel like that’s made us closer as a team and closer as a family,” said Clark. “It’s made us tougher and it’s made us better. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
Winning a game for just the second time in their college careers was a sweet feeling. The players enjoyed singing the school’s fight song to their fans after the game for the first time. The next goal is for the players to win their first Ohio Athletic Conference game. It took a long and bumpy road just to get to this first win, and the seniors from Cincinnati are determined to experience that excitement again before the time runs out on their playing days.
“It’s been two years since our last one, so it especially feels good,” said Meyer. “If we stuck together, we knew we could turn it into something like this.”