Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Meiers not mourning alone

Dylan’s death sparks memories of strong family

Back when they met on the field at KSU Stadium after the 2005 Sunflower Showdown, Dylan, left, and Kerry Meier both were quarterbacks. Kerry Meier — a red-shirt in 2005 — since has moved to wide receiver.

Back when they met on the field at KSU Stadium after the 2005 Sunflower Showdown, Dylan, left, and Kerry Meier both were quarterbacks. Kerry Meier — a red-shirt in 2005 — since has moved to wide receiver.


Sometimes, it can look a little creepy when a 50-something man waits and waits and waits for an autograph from a college athlete. Is he selling it? Does he have so little going on in life that he makes heroes of young men in helmets?

John Rathbun of Cutler Repaving in Lawrence doesn’t fit into those categories. He worships God, not heroes in helmets and pads. For him, faith and family come before his beloved football. Members of Corpus Christi Catholic Church would recognize the voice and face, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell. He’s a lectern. Glasses. Sharply dressed. Follically challenged.

Wife Kathy teaches first graders at Langston Hughes. Their daughter, Kelly Hart, teaches eighth-grade English at South Junior High. Their son Johnny, a para at Langston Hughes, is developing a reputation for having a nice touch working with special-education students.

Yet, there was John Rathbun, waiting at a December function honoring KU’s senior football captains, waiting for a chance to talk to Kerry Meier, clutching the Sports Illustrated cover that featured Meier catching a touchdown pass in the end zone.

“Kerry, I just wanted to tell you I’ve been watching Kansas football since 1975 when I came to KU, and what you guys have accomplished is extra special,” Rathbun told Meier. “For a guy my age, 55 years old, I’ve seen a lot of bad football. To see the things you guys have achieved, and you in particular, has been great. You have to be the greatest teammate anybody’s ever had.”

Rathbun said Meier just looked at him, stunned, and said, “I don’t even know what to say.”

As always, the chatty Rathbun happily filled the gap.

“You don’t have to say anything,” he told Meier. “I just wanted to say thank you.”

Rathbun spoke for an entire Jayhawk Nation. Meier touched Kansas football fans for the classy way he stepped aside for Todd Reesing and quickly found his way back onto the field as a record-breaking receiver and for the way he stood behind his ousted coach, Mark Mangino.

Look into the past of most athletes coined great teammates and you’ll find they grew up in a closely knit family. The way Meier always has talked about his brothers, former Kansas State football players Dylan and Shadley and former Pittsburg State football player Adam, it’s no surprise he turned into such a great teammate. Teams often refer to themselves as families, and the reverse of that is true.

The richer a relationship, the deeper it hurts when it ends. Kerry, Adam, and Shadley lost the best teammate they ever had when Dylan died in a hiking accident Monday in Newton County, Ark. He reportedly fell 94 feet. Kerry and other family members were with Dylan when the accident happened.

It’s painful to think what Kerry must be feeling.

“That was the only time I ever talked to him and I’m sitting here with a hole in my heart,” Rathbun said. “I lost a sister about seven years ago, run over by a truck in Chicago, waiting for the bus on her way home from work.”

An atypical melancholy colored the rapid-talker’s voice.

“I don’t want to say you never recover, but it takes a long time,” Rathbun said. “I know exactly what that family’s going through. It stabs you right in the heart. To see that happen to someone else, it just makes you get down on your knees to say a prayer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what she meant to me. I know it will be hard for the Meier family to get through it, but they’ll be all right. They’re a strong family.”

The entire state of Kansas is praying for that strong family.


Dreamer19 10 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

lv_jhwk 10 years, 2 months ago

If this is in any way meant the way I take it...not the place, definitely not the time.

Ron_Kellogg 10 years, 2 months ago

Strange to see Kerry without the 'stache

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 2 months ago

A House Divided will come together in this tragedy.

Dreamer19 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm not really sure how calling someone a dreamer violates the "usage agreement"...what's the problem? I've known the Rathbun family for a long time and they are great people aka DREAMERS!

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 2 months ago

Not familiar with the use of the term...thanks for the clarification.

jco26867 10 years, 2 months ago

Not sure how you could've taken this in a negative way. The Rathbun's are a wonderful & caring family. I believe that it's ALWAYS time for kindness & understanding.

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

very, very sad.

It's particularly sad that a time when the family should be excited about Kerry and the NFL Draft - and when he should be sharing that moment with his brothers that this will overshadow it.

My thoughts and prayers with the Meiers ...

Aligned 10 years, 2 months ago

What a great picture of the Meier brothers, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the fall. There is some great material in this for a major, gifted sports writer to utilize.

Ryan Mullen 10 years, 2 months ago

Jayhawk nation is with you right now in your time of tragedy. Tear it up in the NFL.

Dan Harris 10 years, 2 months ago

This is just tragic my heart and prayers go out to Kerry and the rest of his family.

jhokfan 10 years, 2 months ago

This really saddens me. Makes these silly games we follow seem so trivial.

PPhhoogg 10 years, 2 months ago

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kerry and his family.

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