Monday, May 05, 2014

An underdog and dancing bear: Meet Jamie Meder, the Ashland lineman and Parma native who could go in the 2014 NFL Draft

By Doug Lesmerises

May 4, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Pro days can be a circus, college football players put on stage for NFL talent evaluators, and the bearded 300-pound man working out alone at the end of Ohio State’s Pro Day in early March was a curiosity.

He wasn’t a Buckeye. But Jamie Meder was someone scouts wanted to see.

“He’s probably the strongest kid I’ve ever been around,” Ashland University defensive coordinator Tim Rose, a college coach for 35 years, including for 29 years at nine different FBS schools, would say later. “And he’s really more athletic than you think he is.
He’s not super fast and he runs a little bit high, but he’s really a big dancing bear kind of guy.”

One who can bench press 515 pounds. And one, who after four years dominating the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in Division II college football, could wind up getting picked in the NFL Draft this week.

A Parma native and 2009 graduate of Valley Forge High School, Meder could have been a major college football player out of high school, but he didn’t qualify academically.

“I was just being a dumb teenager and putting too much focus into sports when I should have been putting it on grades as well,” Meder said.

A semester at Cuyahoga Community College helped get him on track and he wound up at Ashland, “the only school that didn’t give up on me.”

He made All-GLIAC as a freshman and sophomore and as a junior and senior was named the conference’s best defensive lineman. That alone won’t have 20-plus NFL teams stopping by your practices during your senior season to check you out, as Meder had in the fall.

“He’s been highly scrutinized,” Rose said.

But at 6-foot-2 and 293 pounds when he was at Ohio State’s workout, with good feet and a bench press that maxed out at 515 pounds, Meder has a package of skills as a defensive tackle that lift him out of the pack.

“He has football intelligence and awareness that translate well to the NFL level,” draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “He’s country strong and stout with a try-hard attitude that will endear him to pro coaches.”

The draft is no sure thing. Brugler ranks Meder as the No. 33 defensive tackle in his draft guide, in the range that could find him as a late-round pick or a free agent. But he’ll get a shot at the league one way or the other. Meder knows the names of small-school Ohio players who have made it, listing Mount Union receivers Pierre Garcon (sixth-round pick in 2008) and Cecil Shorts (fourth-round pick in 2011) and London Fletcher, the linebacker from John Carroll who became a Pro Bowler after going undrafted in 1998.

The NFL will find players anywhere. At Ashland, the Eagles had defensive lineman Jeris Pendleton drafted in the seventh round two years. Also out of the GLIAC, Hillsdale offensive tackle Jared Veldheer went in the third round in 2010 and Grand Valley State receiver Charles Johnson was drafted in the seventh round last year.

Ashland defensive tackle Jamie Meder was twice named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference defensive lineman of the year.Courtesy of Tom E. Puskar/ Ashland University

“I think he’s going to be an interior NFL defensive lineman,” Rose said. “He’s able to hold up against most double teams and he just manhandled some of the offensive linemen we faced. Not everybody, but he’s just really strong and has great leverage. He can sort things out in that gap and defeat the double team. Of course we’re biased to our own players, but I think he’s going to be drafted and on a roster somewhere.”

Just after his workout at Ohio State, Meder admitted he felt like “an underdog” going through drills at the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He put up 33 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press that day in the OSU weight room, which would have ranked third among defensive linemen at the NFL Combine. But Meder wasn’t thrilled with the result.

“I should have done better,” he said.
“I was a little nervous in this atmosphere.”

Meder also played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl after the season, invited to that postseason all-star game that included players from FBS schools from all over the country. Just before that game, he got a text from Valley Forge head coach Jamie Vanek that read, “You belong here.”

Meder’s takeaway from that experience?

“It just made me an even bigger believer in myself,” Meder said. “I just felt like I actually belonged, that I could do this.”

On day three of the NFL Draft on Saturday, when rounds four through seven are conducted, Meder could have that feeling again.

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