The youngster sat alone at one of the tables in the Blue Springs South commons area, about to eat another solitary and lonely lunch.
It was a sad part of his daily routine, until he caught the eye of his classmate, Skyler Meyers, the Suburban Big Six Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a semifinalist for the Simone Award Committee’s Buck Buchanan Award.
Meyers took his tray of food, sat down next to his wide-eyed classmate and began talking about life, hopes and dreams.
“No one should eat alone in a cafeteria full of students,” said Meyers, a larger-than-life personality with the kind of rugged good looks and long, blond locks that would make a lion jealous. “I had a blast talking to the kid.
“And pretty soon, we had a bunch of people sitting at the table, and they weren’t all jocks. I think that is one big misconception about me and a lot of the players. We love to hang out with each other, our team has a great bond, but we love being around all the students at South.
“This has been my home for a lot of years and I want everyone to have as much fun as I’ve had.”
This is Skyler Meyers’ world, and he is generous enough to let us all live in it.
Despite a disappointing 3-8 senior year, Meyers exceeded all expectations (please see related story). And with great talent, comes great responsibility (thank you Stan Lee).
That’s why Meyers was so disappointed when he saw the video of Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt shove, strike and kick a woman outside of his hotel apartment during the past off season.
“Kareem Hunt was one of my favorite players, and I’m a defensive guy,” Meyers said of the back who was immediately released by the Chiefs. “You could tell how strong he was, and the way he hurdled guys and picked up yards after he was hit, I loved him.
“Then, I saw that video.”
He lowered his head and voice began to soften.
“You don’t hit a woman,” Meyers said. “You don’t come close to hitting, shoving or especially kicking a woman when she is on the ground. I mean, I couldn’t believe it. That was Kareem Hunt I was watching and I couldn’t believe it.”
For years, professional athletes have refused to take on the responsibility of being role models. Charles Barkley, the Hall of Fame former Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns round mound of rebound once said, “Parents need to raise their kids. Parents need to be their role models, not some guy in the NBA.”
Well, congrats to Skyler Meyers’ parents because they did a tremendous job raising a young man who is going to continue his football journey at Division I power Wisconsin.
And he is not afraid to be a role model on a much smaller scale than Hunt or any of his Chiefs teammates.
“I do feel an obligation to being somewhat of a role model,” Meyers said. “I’m just a guy who happens to be good at football. Does that make me better than anyone else?
“No, but it puts me in the spotlight sometimes and I would never do anything to embarrass my family, my team, my school or myself.
“You have the Chiefs, one of the most talked about, exciting teams in the NFL, and all anyone is talking about is Kareem Hunt. And that’s sad.”
I don’t know what Hunt’s childhood was like. But with all the recent TMZ videos surfacing of him arguing in public places, and striking and kicking a woman outside of his apartment at 3 in the morning, I have to believe this is not a problem that arose after he won the 2017 NFL rushing title.
He has issues, and I hope he gets help. Maybe he should spend a few minutes with a young man like Skyler Meyers who gets it. He is wise beyond his years and knows that a simple act like sharing a lunch with a fellow classmate can make as bold a statement as a touchdown saving tackle on the 1-yard line.
As long as I’m around youngsters like Meyers, I will have faith in mankind. It gets difficult at times, but then, someone comes along and shares their lunch with me and I see a glimmer of hope breaking through the dark and brooding clouds.
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC.