By Michael Bower
Quenton Meeks’ childhood had in it what many aspiring young athletes could only dream about: NFL locker rooms, NFL players, NFL games and even a Super Bowl-winning celebration in the rain.
But the best part about it all for the Del Norte High junior was being able to spend time with his father, Ron Meeks, who has over 20 years of defensive coaching experience at the highest level in the world.
It was getting to see him — not Peyton Manning, not Reggie Wayne, not Bob Sanders, not Marvin Harrison and the list goes on — that was the real treat because it didn’t happen often.
The demands of being an NFL coach are high and Quenton, whose parents have been separated since he was 2, lived with his mom, Nicole Mitchell, for most of his childhood.
“Spending time with my dad was way better than the NFL guys,” said the 6-foot, 2-inch, 185-pound defensive back and wide receiver for the Nighthawks. “Being around them for me was really just a bonus.”
Nowadays Ron and Quenton do not have to wait so long in between father-and-son meetings. Ron is enjoying a year away from the NFL as a volunteer coach at Del Norte and his daughter, Sadie Meeks, who is a sophomore at Del Norte, and Quenton are living with him.
“When I was coaching in the NFL it was tough,” said Ron, who got his start with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and had stints with the Cincinnati Bengals (1992-1996), Atlanta Falcons (1997-1999), Washington Redskins (2000), St. Louis Rams (2001), Indianapolis Colts (2002-2008), Carolina Panthers (2009-2010) and the San Diego Chargers (2012). “Now I get a chance to be close to my kids, eat breakfast and have dinner with them and take them to school. It is a blessing to have this opportunity and it has been fun for me.”
Life as a son of a Super Bowl-winning coach leads to high expectations from outsiders, especially when your goal is to reach the NFL at the very position your father has coached for years, defensive back.
“I feel a little pressure, but a lot of that is self-imposed because my dad always tells me he is going to be proud of me no matter what,” said Quenton, who was crushed when he broke his left foot in the middle of last year and missed out on a chance to move up to the varsity team. “I like to put a higher standard on myself because my goal is to make it to the NFL one day.”
Quenton is a very well-spoken young man with a joy for life, as he laughed and smiled his way through the entire 40-minute interview outside of a classroom at Del Norte High. Much of that assuredly comes from his father, who has an infectious love for life.
“Ron has been coaching for 20 or 30 years at the highest level and for him to have such a high level of energy and excitement to coach high school kids is amazing,” Del Norte football coach Leigh Cole said. “Just the way he enjoys life and wakes up in the morning and is happy to be here is special and it rubs off on everyone.”
Ron hardly puts any pressure on his son to make his dream of playing at a Division I college and then one day in the NFL a reality. In fact, Ron does almost the opposite, rattling off statistics about how few athletes even make it to The Show. Quenton echoes them perfectly:
“Only one percent of football players will make it to the NFL ... The average NFL career is only three years if you do make it ... Even if you play 15 years in the NFL, you are still in your 30s, then what are you going to do? ... My dad is always on me about don’t just be a football player.”
Ron goes even deeper when it comes to the importance of gaining an education.
“Playing sports is an extracurricular activity outside of academics,” he said. “When you are in high school, you are a student first because that lays the foundation for what you want to be in life. You have to set the precedent for what is most important.”
It’s no surprise that Quenton carries a 3.40 GPA and is hoping to bump that up to 3.70 by the time he graduates. But just because he makes time for the classroom doesn’t mean he has no time for the field.
He knows just how hard he will have to work to make his dream come true. And that, he says, is the biggest thing he learned while being around NFL players.
“Most kids dream about being in the NFL or going to a Division I college, but they don’t know what it takes,” Quenton said. “They just have an idea from what they see on TV, but I have actually been there. Those guys, wow, they work. They put in so much time to be great at what they do.”
Quenton had the chance to watch and be apart of a great group of players celebrating a Super Bowl title. It was in 2007 when his dad was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts and they defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 on a rainy afternoon in Miami for the championship.
It was Ron’s first Super Bowl win in three tries and he made sure Quenton was part of a post-game interview that the two will never forget.
“I remember the reporter asked me a question: ‘how does it feel for your dad to be a Super Bowl champion?’ I was like: ‘we didn’t get it the first time, the second time was closer so I guess the third time is a charm.’ We still have that video and it was just a cool moment.”
And with the two now on the sidelines together, there are assuredly many more cool moments to come.