MEIKLE RETURNS TO BYU PRACTICE
Former Hillcrest star back with first-team offense
By MICHAEL MCQUAIN
About two miles away, the atmosphere was decidedly different.
Nate Meikle, along with several other injured Cougars, ran through some light running and offensive drills under the watchful eyes of a BYU strength coach. No coaches, no fans, no fanfare – just quiet determination.
“We hate it over there,” said Meikle of the isolated, limited workout he and several others endured while the team was scrimmaging full tilt in the stadium. “I understand the reason for it and totally accept his (Mendenhall’s) decision,” added the Academic All-America receiver.
The former Hillcrest star came into fall camp as BYU’s starting H-back, one of the brightest spots in Bronco Mendenhall’s ongoing quest to return the Cougars to their former dominance as one of college football’s perennial offensive powerhouses. When we last saw Meikle, he was playing through a recurring hamstring injury against
in the Las Vegas Bowl.
On that December evening, the Idaho Falls native led all BYU receivers with 12 receptions for 93 yards as BYU mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback which fell just short in the final moments of a 35-28 loss to the Golden Bears.
Meikle has healed - and then re-injured the hamstring - three times since the bowl game, the last setback coming just a month ago. He has been forced to spend most of 2006 concentrating on treatment and rehabilitation rather than attacking defensive backs.
“I’m running at about 80 percent,” said the 5’9” 181-pound senior. “It feels good, but it also felt good a month ago when I re-pulled it and I wasn’t pushing it that hard.”
Monday, Meikle’s patience and persistence finally paid-off. He re-joined the first-team offense in his first full-contact practice in months. In Mendenhall’s ‘effort-plus-production-equals-playing time’ world, in spite of the long absence, the starting job is Meikle’s to lose.
“He will come back as number one with a chance to hold on to it,” said Mendenhall, who is also one of Meikle’s biggest supporters. “Nate is proven, he’s the one who led the comeback against
Cal – I have no question of his heart,
commitment or spirit.”
Other than Meikle himself, the Cougar happiest to see #9 back in the offensive huddle is quarterback John Beck, who knows a thing or two about battling through injuries.
“I locker right next to Nate, so I know he’s been frustrated,” said Beck. “The great thing about Nate is when he gets on the practice field he works his tail off. He’s such a good football player, he’s an easy guy to throw to because he sees the same holes I’m seeing - he has a feeling and an awareness for the game.”
That drew a smile from Meikle. “Oh I hope so, I hope he does miss me, and hopefully we can get things going again.”
BYU opens the season Saturday, September 2nd in