IOWA CITY – He’s had a nice little career here has kicker Mike Meyer, only one of the best ever for the Hawkeyes. Scored more points than Dwight, kicked more field goals than Houghtlin, played more games than Clark.
OK, you can certainly quibble on the greatness-o-meter, but the bottom line is Meyer, a senior who’s kicked 59 field goals and 112 consecutive extra points — that streak ranks sixth in Big Ten history and is fourth longest active streak — came in as a walk-on from Dubuque and will leave Kinnick Stadium after Iowa (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) matches up with Michigan (7-3, 3-3) as one of the best kickers in Iowa history.
He laughed at that notion this week. He had the “best moment at Kinnick” question that a lot of seniors hear in the run up to their final home game. He again laughed, said “I don’t know” and then said something that might give some insight into how kickers keep their brains from frying.
“Still to come,” Meyers said. A hopeful statement and one that shows how kickers — all players for that matter — can’t stand around and admire their work, because the next one is a whole new proposition.
“Mike is in a position where it’s kind of like Saturday night,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s easier to say this team did that, that team did that, and everybody has opinions about kickers because what they do is very visible, it’s out there. When they perform, it’s all out there for people.”
Another insight into the mind of a kicker came when Meyer was asked about the highs and lows of his career.
The highs? “Um, I don’t know, it’s hard to say,” he said. “Every time we win it’s a great experience.”
The lows? “There have been a couple of those,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to remember a miss than a make.”
Why? “It’s just something that you know you could do better at,” he said. “I think that’s the special thing. It makes you push forward and want to get better. Maybe that’s why it pops into your head so fast.”
Let’s try to fill a few of the highs for Meyer, who’s made 14 of 18 field goals this season (77.8 percentage, third in the Big Ten).
He has earned Big Ten special teams player of the week three times in his career. The first came in Iowa’s 18-13 win at Indiana in 2010. He made four field goals, including a then-career long 42-yarder early in the fourth quarter to keep Iowa alive. Meyer became the first Iowa freshman kicker to boot four field goals in a game since Nate Kaeding did it in a double overtime win (26-23) over Penn State in 2000.
His second award came after the 2012 opener against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. Iowa’s offense didn’t score a TD for the first 57:45 of the game. Meyer’s four field goals kept Iowa alive. He made a 50-yarder while slipping and into a swirling Chicago wind.
Then, in last season’s 19-16 double-overtime victory at Michigan State, Meyer went 4 of 4 including a 42-yarder in rainy conditions that gave Iowa a chance to win it in the second OT.
Meyer said the Michigan State game was “kind of” a game-winning kick. The low that probably gets to Meyer still is two misses in a 22-21 loss at Minnesota in 2011. This is the head game that kickers have to control. Meyer knows the lows and could probably tell you everything about that ’11 Minnesota game. He’s won three Big Ten special teams honors and doesn’t even offer up that factoid.
Ferentz estimated Tuesday that Meyer and long snapper Casey Kreiter, also a senior, spend about 12 minutes a day with the team in practice. Knowing how coaches are with time, that’s probably not an estimate.
So, kickers, by virtue of their job, are out there.
“I hear all the time that we’re a different breed and all that,” said Meyer, whose made 59 of 76 career field goal attempts. “It’s something I learned my freshman year, when I earned the job. I think it’s something I’ve learned progressively throughout my career. It’s just being comfortable and confident in what you’re doing.”
No, he won’t leave here more popular than Tim Dwight or Dallas Clark. Statistically, he’s ahead of Rob Houghtlin, but he doesn’t have the signature kick that Houghtlin had in ’85 to lift No. 1 Iowa over No. 2 Michigan.
Meyer has been the best Meyer he could be throughout his career. That turned out pretty well. He’ll graduate as Iowa’s No. 2 in career scoring (308 points going into Saturday’s game).
And again you can see why Meyer has had a stellar career. Even as he takes a step back for one last look, the former walk-on doesn’t totally let his guard down.
“Everything that’s happened has been a dream,” he said. “I’m still trying to live up to that.”