Senior defensive end Mitchell Meyers is a big part of Iowa State’s football team.
Not just for his play, leadership and unquestionable work ethic, although those characteristics earned him a team captain role for the 2016 season.
It’s the heart and fight in Meyers that most inspires his team.
Meyers was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2015 after a swollen neck led to an x-ray that revealed a mass in his chest. But he kept his spirits high and fought hard, and he’s back as a leader for his final season.
“He has this innate ability to impress you every day,” first-year Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “I think it teaches everybody… tough times don’t last, tough people do and Mitchell defines that.”
His parents, Scott and Laura Meyers, were home in The Woodlands, Texas and learned about Meyers’ condition over the phone.
They initially wanted their son to return to Texas for his chemotherapy treatments, but the two-time First Team Academic All-Big 12 athlete decided to stay in Ames, Iowa so he could continue his studies.
“We got on a plane and went right away,” Laura Meyers said. “When I heard cancer, I thought he needed to be home. But he was still in school and didn’t want to get behind. I went up every two weeks to Iowa… I kept telling him, ‘life happens, we make adjustments.’”
Not long after his treatments began, Meyers started working out with the team again. He got tired faster and couldn’t lift quite as much as usual, but his heart was as strong as ever.
“I realized [chemotherapy] didn’t affect me too much so I started to work out with the team,” Meyers said. “[My workouts] were ramped down when I first started, but once summer started I told myself to do everything the team did.”
In August 2015 he went home for radiation, but doctors found a cancer growth and Meyers had to endure a second round of chemotherapy. After a successful stem cell transplant and radiation he returned to Ames in March 2016 but didn’t participate in spring practice.
Meyers was declared cancer free in June, and shortly after he joined the Cyclones for summer workouts. His tenacity helped him climb the depth chart and he earned back his starting spot and a team captain honor.
“It was pretty surreal,” Meyers said. “The whole process had lots of ups and downs. I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back. Putting in all the work helped me forget about the cancer stuff. Out on the field I just felt like a normal dude. I think my teammates respected the fact that I fought hard to get back, it’s a very great feeling.”
Meyers has recorded 12 tackles through six games this season. He started every game as a sophomore in 2014 and tallied 30 tackles, third-best on the team. He played in all 12 games his redshirt freshman season and registered 14 tackles.
Although Iowa State is off to a rough, 1-5 start, Meyers believes his team can fight like he did and earn a few wins in the second half of the season.
Laura Meyers- who graduated from the University of Texas with a computer science degree in 1984- said family, friends and Mitchell’s high school coaches will be in Austin on Saturday to watch the game.
“You bet we haven’t and won’t miss a game this season,” Laura Meyers said. “[Mitchell’s] my hero. He’s a very strong person and I’m just happy he got his life back.”