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There may be no better example of Del Oro football’s perseverance in 2013, than that of standout Tyler Meteer   By DAVID KIEFER |...

There may be no better example of Del Oro football’s perseverance in 2013, than that of standout Tyler Meteer

  By DAVID KIEFER | Contributor

  The ball left Michael Moore’s hand with the look of indecision, but in truth the pass that floated through the chilly night air was brilliantly precise.

  Two players stood in the end zone waiting for the ball to come down. Those who didn’t know Tyler Meteer assumed the ball was poorly thrown. Those who knew the Del Oro-Loomis tight end were confident he would find a way to catch it – and they were right.

  Leaping and stretching with all his might, Meteer outfought an all-league safety to gather in the pass on a play that Serra-San Mateo coach Patrick Walsh would deem as the turning point to Del Oro’s 28-20 victory in the California Interscholastic Federation Division I Northern Regional championship game. The 22-yard play capped a 99-yard drive. Not only did it give Del Oro the lead, but shifted the mental edge permanently to the Golden Eagles.

  “He threw it in the perfect spot,” Meteer said. 

  Only 20 feet from the catch, Steve Meteer had a front-row seat from the back of the end zone at San Jose City College. Some may have been surprised that Tyler came up with that ball, but not Steve. He’s always seen that kind of resourcefulness and fight in his son. Of course, Tyler got it from dad.

  For most of Tyler’s life, Steve has been in a wheelchair. Diabetes, nerve damage, and cancer have taken a toll. Steve began chemotherapy during Tyler’s sophomore year, and has been hospitalized seven times in the past 18 months.

  The diabetes is the biggest immediate worry. There are no warning signs before Steve falls into insulin shock. He says Tyler has twice saved his life, by stabilizing him before he could fall into a coma.

  The constant pain has been so great that Steve described it as “from Level 7 to Level 10” for the past 10 years.

  “After five years, I’d given up mentally,” Steve said. “Morally, I knew that suicide was not a way out, but I was hoping God would take me. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.” 

  There was pain and there was anguish. Steve felt guilty that his oldest son, Andrew, a receiver and defensive back at Del Oro, bypassed college and a potential collegiate playing career to stay and help care for him.

  He also wrestled with the idea that his poor health did not allow him to be the father he wanted to be for his children, Andrew, Tyler, Alicia, and Madison, or even the husband he wished to be for his wife, Mary Ellen. 

  “It’s been hard,” Steve said. “I can’t do most of the things that I used to relate to being a man. I can’t drive, I can’t work. I think of the lost opportunities with my boys in being a father. It’s hard to rely on other people. It’s been hard and humbling.”

  But what Steve’s odyssey also has done is allow each of his children to grow a sense of responsibility at a young age. They have learned to appreciate the things they can do with their father rather than dwell on the things they can’t. It’s drawn the family closer.

  It’s also allowed Steve to see others in their true light, like the teachers, coaches, and friends who have been willing to give of themselves to help the family in any way they can.

  Though the pain has not subsided, Steve has changed. He decided to rededicate himself to living. Now, he’s in it for his wife, children, and grandchild.

  Steve has missed only one game in Tyler’s high school career, giving him a front row seat to the maturation of a young man.

  Not only is Tyler a standout tight end and inside linebacker, but he carries a 4.1 grade-point average, excels in math and sees a future as an engineer. 

  Tyler also has been eager to serve the community, something that head coach Casey Taylor encourages for all his players. Tyler reads stories to elementary school children and, for the past two years, has been a date at An Evening of Dreams, a Sacramento event that gives special needs teens and young adults a full prom red-carpet experience. Tyler has been one of 12 Del Oro players to participate each year. More want to, but the event has been full.

  “He does everything for us,” Taylor said. “He’s very valuable on offense, defense, special teams. He’s one of the best players to come out of our program and a great kid as well. He does it right on the field, in the community, and in the classroom.”

  Meteer had 64 catches for 849 yards and scored 11 touchdowns this season through the NorCal title game. He also had a team-high 126 tackles, including 81 solo, and six sacks. 

  At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Meteer sees himself as a linebacker in college. Despite no scholarship offers, he may have opportunities to walk-on at major-college programs.

  “He’s pretty much the biggest player on our team,” senior defensive back Jonathon Tuttle said. “He’s the one we turn to. He’s the leader on the field and off the field. He motivates us to be better.”

  Tyler and fellow captain Tanner Woods, a lineman bound for the Marines, played on the team that reached the 2011 state Division II bowl game and lost to Helix-La Mesa, 35-24. This season was filled with similar hopes at a downtown Loomis kickoff event that featured all levels of Loomis football, from high school varsity to junior pee wee. 

  Taylor chose to sharpen the team with a brutal nonleague schedule. Del Oro lost two of its first three games to powers Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks and De La Salle-Concord. But the Golden Eagles regained their balance with a 38-35 double overtime thriller over Sacramento titan Grant. 

  A few weeks later, Del Oro outlasted Sierra Foothill League rival Granite Bay, 30-28, when running back Dylan Kainrath carried 54 times for 244 yards and scored three touchdowns. Meteer, who blocked on every one of those carries, said he gained strength from Kainrath’s refusal to show any sign of fatigue. 

  That would prove to be a character trait. In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship played in rain, cold, and a biting wind, Del Oro fell behind Elk Grove 19-0, but rallied in the fourth quarter, winning 20-19 on a five-yard scoring pass to Kainrath with 1:05 left.

  Steve Meteer recalled one play in particular. Tyler and Tuttle chased a ballcarrier downfield, with Tuttle making a tackle at the goal-line. The runner scored anyway, but the Del Oro effort was memorable. 

  On Serra gameday morning, the team gathered in the cafeteria for their weekly breakfast. Mary Ellen has been active in the preparation of those meals for 120. Biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, bacon and eggs, French toast, chocolate chip pancakes, and cinnamon rolls, have been favorites.

  A parent also is invited to address the team. On this day, it was Steve.

  He related his own trials to those on the football field. He talked about Tuttle’s tackle against Elk Grove, how Tuttle never quit on the play, and how he himself has vowed to live his own life the same way.

  “I’m not quitting,” Steve said. 

  Tyler Meteer had seven catches for 81 yards that night, and helped stop the Padres’ running game by filling the inside gaps and spying dual-threat quarterback Matthew Fa’aita, who was held to 16 yards on 16 carries.

  The Golden Eagles (13-2) earned a return trip to Carson to play Bakersfield in the state Div. I bowl game. Steve Meteer will be there. 

  “My dad has been an inspiration,” Tyler said. 

  To that, Steve can’t help but smile. The feeling is mutual.

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