A 21-14 loss to LSU in the Outback Bowl wasn’t the way sophomore Nate Meier and his Iowa teammates had hoped to finish their season, but the former Fremont-Mills football standout says the future is bright for the Hawkeye program.
Iowa’s 8-5 record was a vast improvement over a 4-8 campaign in 2012 and Meier believes the Hawkeyes will only get better as they begin off-season preparations for 2014.
“We’re headed in the right direction. We keep on improving every week it seems like,” Meier said in an interview prior to Iowa’s trip to Florida for the Outback Bowl. “I think we played one of our best games against Nebraska in the last game of the season.
“We just kept pushing forward and getting better.”
Meier said it meant a lot to the Hawkeyes to win three of their “trophy games” this season. Iowa claimed the Cy-Hawk Trophy in its win over Iowa State, the Floyd of Rosedale Pig from Minnesota and the Heroes Game Trophy against Nebraska.
“All but one of those trophies we play for came back to Iowa City – Wisconsin (the Heartland Trophy),” he said.
Meier, who was the state’s Eight-man player of the year when he led Fremont-Mills to the 2011 state championship, played on both sides of the ball in high school, but was mostly known as a bruising running back, scoring 61 touchdowns during his senior season with the Knights. He expected to be a running back when he went to Iowa City, but spent time at linebacker during his freshman season before moving to defensive end last spring. Meier is listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind fellow sophomore Drew Ott.
Meier saw playing time in all 13 Hawkeye games this season, recording six tackles, including a pair of quarterback sacks. In the Outback Bowl, he threw a key block on LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings during defensive back John Lowdermilk’s 71-yard interception return in the third quarter that helped swing momentum the Hawkeyes’ way.
Meier said his comfort level at the defensive-end position grew as the season progressed.
“I like it (D-end) a lot,” Meier said. “It’s going really well, actually. They’ve had me in mostly on third downs. Sometimes, I’ll get in and play left end, but usually I’m just a rush end coming off the end for more speed.”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Meier said the most difficult adjustment in making the jump from high school to Division I college football was getting used to the speed of the game.
“Just the tempo of the game,” he said. “It’s a lot quicker and at the college level, everyone is much bigger than in high school.”
As for going from playing eight-man football to the traditional 11-man game, Meier noted that Fremont-Mills didn’t switch from 11- to eight-man until his junior season. It’s a non-issue, as far as he’s concerned.
Meier said his goal for the off season is simple – to become a better player and do whatever he can to help the Hawkeyes make a run at a Big 10 championship in the fall. He said the leadership exhibited by the seniors on this year’s squad has put the Hawkeyes back on the right track.
“Their leadership got everyone motivated to want to practice and get together for film sessions,” Meier said. “Everyone is dedicated to doing what it takes.”
In the classroom, Meier is a pre-business major.
“I’m actually hoping to open my own gym and actually have a sports product, like a protein (drink) or something like that,” he said.
Meier said he stays in touch on a regular basis with friends and family from the Tabor area and his former coaches and teammates at Fremont-Mills. His parents, Rod and Pixie Meier, made it to all the Hawkeye home games this season and some of the away contests.
Meier laughed when asked how many friends and relatives made the 75-minute drive from Tabor to Lincoln for the Hawkeyes’ Black Friday clash with the Cornhuskers.
“I actually had about 20 people come to Nebraska for that game,” Meier said. “I also have about 10 people come to every home game.
“I stay in touch with Fremont-Mills. My (high school) coaches text me about every day to see how I’m doing and to keep me updated.”