Faith, family, football run deep in Meyers clan

Faith, family, football run deep in Meyers clan

Chase Meyers is the new running backs coach and special teams coordinator for the Greenwood Bulldogs. He was the third and final new assistant hired by Chris Young, who succeeded Rick Jones as Head Coach last February.

Meyers, age 37 and a native of West Memphis, most recently coached at Class 7A North Little Rock High School. He was there for two seasons and the Wildcats reached the state finals both years, losing twice to Bryant.

While vacationing with his family this week, the new GHS assistant coach graciously granted a lengthy telephone interview, sharing his thoughts about the three things in life that really motivate him – his faith, family, and football.

The gregarious coach and his family will soon be moving into their new home in Greenwood. With wife Shawna, Meyers has four children, Bella, age 11, twin boys Carter and Christian, age nine, and another son, Jax, age five. All four kids are interested in sports.

Shawna, born and raised in Bismarck, Arkansas, has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 11 years, but is currently enrolled in the non-traditional teacher certification program. A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, she already holds degrees in sociology and psychology and a master’s degree in community counseling from the University of Arkansas.

The two met in high school after Jim and Sandy Meyers left West Memphis and moved their family to Bismarck in the late 1990s. Jim became head football coach for the Lions and both of his sons, Jacob and Chase, are now coaches as well. Jacob is head coach at Pea Ridge. Their sister, Mallory, is also an educator in Marion, Arkansas.

At Greenwood, Coach Meyers will teach three levels of geometry. A 2006 Henderson State University grad and history major (math minor), Meyers also holds a post-graduate degree in educational leadership from Arkansas State.

“I’m excited about it,” he said of his new classroom assignment. “I think it will be a fun challenge. Something different.” Meyers will earn an additional certification in math while at Greenwood.

The first-year GHS coach was quite open about his childhood and the positive impact it continues to have on his life. “I was very fortunate to grow up in a home where I was supported in every way,” he said, referring to his parents.

“They’re still married, and I consider that a blessing. We have so many children growing up in single parent households, and that’s not to say they can’t do a tremendous job raising a child. But it’s my opinion that a mother and father together in a home are ideal for raising a family.

“I’m blessed to have grown up in that environment. They were always at my ballgames and helped with my homework. They were just there,” added Meyers.

“That’s a big part of who I try to be as a father, coach, and teacher, is just be there. Kids don’t always come to you with their problems, but when they do you need to be there, and they need to trust and believe they can come to you if and when they need to. I want my students, children, and players to know they can come [to me] for the help they need.”

But strong family ties are not the only pillar supporting the Meyers clan. Their religious faith was paramount, a legacy Chase and Shawna have continued with their own children.

“I was raised in a traditional Christian [home] and I will raise my family the same way,” said the new Bulldogs’ assistant coach. “I know that’s not always popular in today’s world. But I want [my kids] to have a firm foundation and stand up for what they believe and know it’s true.” Intellectually, Meyers favors the writings of Christian author C.S. Lewis.

“There are different perspectives,” he added. “[But] being a father of four, I want to raise my children first and foremost to be Christians and look at other people with empathy. I want them to have kindness and love in their hearts for others. We see so much bitterness and a lack of understanding of other cultures and viewpoints.

“It’s a difficult time we are in,” he continued, referring to the current political and civil unrest in America. “I think empathy, understanding, and love can bridge the gap between all different sides of the political spectrum. I know there are things on both sides that are diametrically opposed, but I don’t think we have to agree all the time politically if we can view each other as valuable human beings.

“Growing up in West Memphis, I think the demographics are a little different than Greenwood and North Little Rock, where I’m coming from. But I’m a football coach, a man, a husband, and a father. I try to treat everyone with respect. My experience in life has been that I get respect shown in return,” said Meyers.

“Political ideologies and demographics don’t really matter in that context. I’m much more concerned about raising the husbands, fathers, and community leaders of the next generation, with empathy toward others.”

But being the son of a coach had its pros and cons, said Meyers. “One thing I learned from my dad growing up is he always seemed unsatisfied,” describing his father as something of a perfectionist on the gridiron.

“Sometimes you have to celebrate the small successes,” he observed. “I’ve coached teams in the state championship game, and I’ve coached teams that won very few games. How do you motivate kids to work when they’re not seeing the wins? That’s tough.

“It’s great to strive for perfection and always want to get better. With all the tradition and wins Greenwood’s had over the years, it’s [also] hard to stay on the mountaintop. Everybody is trying to knock you off. Sometimes it’s harder to stay on top then to get [there],” said Meyers.

“My dad is a well-organized guy and a detail-oriented coach, not overlooking any of the little details. [He taught me] to be efficient and maximize [my] time.”

Meyers also acknowledged that coaching is time-consuming and requires tremendous dedication and effort, which often puts the profession in conflict with family duties. “That’s part of coaching that people often forget about.”

Still, he spent many happy hours with his dad because of football, and has an abiding love for both his father and the game he now coaches. “I have fond memories of those good times.”

While the Arkansas Activities Association has waived the traditional two-week dead period this summer, some GHS coaches and players are still taking time away from campus for their families before returning to the grind fulltime on July 6th. Until then, player participation is optional, and some coaches remain on hand to work with players.

“Coach Young has been great,” said Meyers of the man who hired him. “[Coaches are] human beings and we need time to be dads and husbands. Our families need us. It’s a testament to the way Coach Young wants to run the program.

“When we’re there, we’re getting after it. We’re going to put in a lot of time making sure we can have the greatest success possible. [But] when it’s time to go home and be husbands and fathers, he has shown he’s going to put a priority on that as well, which is important to me. I appreciate having time with my family,” he said.

Despite being the son of a coach, Meyers came to the coaching profession gradually. It wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he thought seriously about his future. Ironically, his parents, both educators, tried to dissuade him from becoming a teacher and coach, understanding the difficulties involved. They wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer.

“My first job was at Lincoln High School (2006),” recalled Meyers. “I was there for three years and coached multiple positions. My head coach was Jonathan Johnson and I would hold him up as one of the finest men I’ve ever been around. He was trying to correct a program that was struggling at the time.

“We tied one game in three years, and I had to learn how to deal with that, and I didn’t always do it well. But I learned from that experience. I learned a calmness and steadiness in the face of difficult circumstances. [Coach Johnson] never waived in the way he treated people, in his principles or his work ethic. It made a big impression on me.”

After one season as defensive coordinator at Bryant Middle School, Meyers went to tiny Glen Rose, Arkansas, as the offensive line and inside linebackers coach. He also was the school’s head baseball coach.

“I had a really great experience [at Bryant], and that whole staff [at Glen Rose] was incredible. Those kids worked incredibly hard and were very coachable. It was a really fun six years,” he said.

“I then went to Texas for two years to work for a buddy of mine, Richard Strickland. He got the head coaching job at Overton and asked me if I wanted to be his offensive coordinator. It was a difficult thing to move that far away, but he is a dear friend of mine and I have the utmost respect for him. I learned so much being the OC and assistant athletic director.”

In fact, Strickland offered Meyers a chance to return to Texas this year at another school, but the job with the Bulldogs was too good to pass up. “I just felt that Greenwood was the place I needed to be,” he said.

Returning from Texas in 2018, Meyers was hired at North Little Rock by Head Coach Jamie Mitchell. “I learned how to really hone-in on film study and dissect the most minute things. I really learned how to get into the film with depth,” said Meyers.

“I’ve gone to a lot of different places and worked with a lot of different people, and I don’t want to burn any bridges. I want to leave a place better than I found it. I’ve also been to four state championship games, but haven’t had the pleasure to win one yet. Obviously, that’s a big part of wanting to be part of a successful program. That’s attractive as a coach.”

As for the recruiting process that brought him to the Bulldogs, Meyers said, “The whole state heard that Coach Jones was leaving. It was quite a buzz – wondering who they might get. I thought it was the right move to take somebody on staff with an insider’s knowledge to maintain that level of success.

“After I heard Coach Young had been named, I sent him an email to congratulate him. I didn’t know him and had never met him. I told him I would love to talk about any future positions, and that was about it,” he continued.

“He [then] reached out to me and I came up [to interview] and we just talked about life and relationships with kids. He wanted to know more about me as a human being than as a coach. We talked a little football, but it was mostly about character and leadership,” added Meyers.

“We just clicked and hit it off pretty well. I hadn’t made it all the way home before he called back and offered me the job. It didn’t take me any time to accept it. I knew it was a great opportunity.”

The articulate GHS assistant agreed that coming to Greenwood, even from a larger school as successful as North Little Rock, was a career move he couldn’t pass up as a coach and family man.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s definitely a family move. My kids want to play multiple sports, but that’s almost impossible in a place like North Little Rock. The drop in classification and the smaller school is a better fit for my kids.

“I definitely wasn’t trying to leave North Little Rock. I was happy [there] and it took a perfect storm to convince me to leave. Greenwood checks all the boxes – family and career. There are not many places I would have left North Little Rock to go to. We would not have made the move if I had felt otherwise.”

Meyers said he and his family was impressed with, “How big a deal football is in Greenwood and how much pride there is in being a Bulldog. My wife had no idea girls’ athletics at Greenwood are so incredible. Everything they do in Greenwood they do to the best of their ability. That’s the impression the state has,” said Meyers.

Of course, the academic reputation of Greenwood schools also played a role in luring the Meyers family to South Sebastian County, along with the nature of the community itself. “Greenwood has that small-town feel.

“It was not difficult to convince [the family] to leave,” explained Meyers. “We enjoy the newness, the new relationships and people. This is exciting. We like to travel. We’ve moved so many times and lived so many places, it’s become normal. But I would like [our kids] to get comfortable and know we’re going to be here for the long haul. I think Greenwood is a place we can definitely do that. But as long as we’re together we’re going to be okay anywhere.”

Asked about becoming a head coach or pursuing a career in school administration, Meyers is prepared to do either, but not anytime soon. “I’m not in a hurry. I want it to be the right job at the right time for my career and family. I believe I can have just as big an impact on kids as an assistant coach. But I do have aspirations down the line.

“I’d be perfectly fine just coaching and being a community member and a husband and father. It might be after my kids are out of school and gone. I go back and forth. It’s a struggle. I love coaching, the Xs and Os and the strategy of it. I love working with kids. But I [also] love being a husband and a father. I think the right time will come for me,” he said.

As for the decision to come to Greenwood, “It was a no-brainer,” he added. “I can remember that year (2000) when Coach Peacock won it [all]. That put [Greenwood] on the map, but there was no expectation of long-term success. [Then] Coach Jones came, and they won another one and another one. It wasn’t just a flash in the pan.

“There is something different going on at Greenwood – high-quality education and high-quality athletics. It’s an at-large effort from everyone. I’m sure the people in Greenwood know what a special place it is. I can tell you that it’s not normal. It’s a different kind of place. You have that complete buy-in [from everyone],” offered Meyers.

The Bulldogs’ newest coach also doesn’t accept the premise that GHS football will take a step backwards after losing Coach Jones to the University of Missouri. “I don’t believe that,” Meyers said.

“Football staffs are so much more than one person. Everyone has an important job. Football is the ultimate team game and the coaching staff exemplifies that as well. The staff at Greenwood is still going to be incredibly strong, and I know we’re going to have incredible leadership out of Coach Young, and I don’t expect that to change.

“We feel pressure,” he said as a member of the coaching staff. “We know what the expectations are. [But] there’s an extreme amount of confidence in that coaches’ office, and there should be.”

Asked about his best qualities as a coach, Meyers said, “I’m extremely versatile. I’ve coached every position on the field. Growing up in a coaching family adds to that versatility. I can coach offense, defense, and special teams.”

He also has strong interpersonal skills as well when dealing with student-athletes. “Building honest, truthful relationships with kids. I can get excited, but I try to stay even keel. I try to be calm and steady for my players. I want to meet their expectations as players, and if I do, they will meet my expectations as a coach,” he added.

“Just showing up and being the same person every day that kids can trust. If you don’t build those relationships, how do you ask a high school kid to put his body on the line and risk injury if he doesn’t trust that you have put him in the right situation and taught him how to be successful?”

Meyers says he feels very fortunate to have experience and talent returning this season both at running back and on special teams, and that starts with senior tailback Hunter Wilkinson, a two-year starter.

Meyers wants to emphasize three aspects of the running game. “If we have ball security, and run physical and don’t let the first man get us down, and have our eyes in the right place and make the proper cut, we’ll be extremely successful,” he explained.

“Hunter fits all three of those things, and #4 is catching the football,” added Meyers. “Hunter has a high level of intelligence and a great grasp of the offense and what his role is in it, and he can catch the ball extremely well. He knows the offense better than I do right now because he’s been doing it a lot longer than I have. I’m still learning, but having a guy like Hunter to help me and the younger players is invaluable.”

Backing up Wilkinson will be junior Cameron Krone, “a really hard-working kid,” says his coach. Meyers also likes what he sees from junior Brennan Gregory and senior Ty Moose. “I think Ty has promise,” he said of the GHS champion wrestler in his first year of varsity football.

Juniors Gabe Belin and Greyson Smith are also working at running back to provide depth. “All of those kids are hard-working. I like what I see. Barring injuries, we’re going to be well off,” assured Meyers.

The Bulldogs have long been known for excellent special teams play, and this coming season should be no different said Meyers, who is confident of his players’ abilities despite his limited time with them so far.

“I know we’ve got two good kickers,” he said of junior Ben Moy and senior Luis Morales. “It’s a tossup at the moment. They’re both good. They’re doing the same drills and workouts at the same level of intensity as the rest of our athletes. They’re tough [kids].”

As for punting, besides Moy and Morales, junior Noah Jantzen is also an option says his coach. “Noah has a really big leg. He can boom it and does a good job getting height on the kick. [He’s] got good hang time and distance. He’s kind of raw and not your prototypical kicker, [but] he’s really athletic and used to play quarterback.”

Senior Jayden Jasna is back as the Bulldogs’ return specialist. “He’s fearless, and that kind of player is invaluable,” said Meyers. “He’ll catch it in traffic, make a guy miss and find the running lane and uses his blockers well. He has the ability to go the distance. He can flip the field. We expect big things from him.”

The coach also talked about, “Winning those hidden yardage battles – stripping the ball out and creating turnovers. We don’t want to be second or third fiddle to the [offense or defense].”

Asked about the ideal special teams player, Meyers said, “I want someone that’s hungry. This is his chance to get out there and make a difference. We’re going to make it a big deal. We were incredibly good in [special teams] at North Little Rock.”

Regarding the unprecedented events of 2020, Meyers said, “There’s no playbook for what’s been transpiring over the past few months. It’s uncharted waters. But I think Coach Young has done an incredible job maintaining contact with the kids as much as he could through Zoom meetings and phone calls.”

A few players haven’t shown up for workouts yet, and some may not return, but given the circumstances of the pandemic, the closing of schools in March, and the coaching change, perhaps that’s to be expected. Schools across the state and around the nation are dealing with similar issues.

But in his opinion, Meyers believes football can be a powerful tool in developing the confidence and character of a young man. “We offer stability and life lessons through our football program. I know how much of an impact football had on me. I loved it. I was more interested in football than I was in girls.

“I’m an intense family man and I’m going to coach in the same way I guide my children. We’re going to discipline them, set them on the right path, and then love them up.”

Meyers, who played quarterback, safety, fullback, and tight end at various times in high school and college, also likes the GHS athletic facilities. “I love that they are all on campus. It becomes the center of town. It helps improve attendance and [provides] a sense of belonging. It’s a great marriage in Greenwood between elite athletic competition and elite academics.

“We’re very excited about getting to be a part of Greenwood,” reiterated the coach. “We feel extremely blessed, buying a home and becoming a part of the community and the Bulldog family.”

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