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Posted on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 11:19 a.m.

Michigan and Ohio State football programs both embrace Brock Mealer

By Staff


Brock Mealer is flanked by his brothers Blake (left) and Elliott as he touches the banner after walking to the 50-yard-line at the start of Michigan's season home opener against UConn. file photo

By Rusty Miller AP College Football Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brock Mealer has been a guest of coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State practices.

It's just that Mealer just wasn't welcome this week.

Someone (possibly Tressel — Brock can't remember for sure) told him in jest that he couldn't come during the preparations for the game against Michigan because he might be spying on behalf of his brother.

Brock's brother is Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer. Even though Brock will be rooting for the Wolverines on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, he has a unique perspective on the rivalry: He's seen the best of both sides.

"That makes it that much greater for me that I really feel that God's just playing this all out," he said from his home in Wauseon, this week before heading up to Ann Arbor for a physical therapy workout.

"To have just all these pieces fall in place like they have, has made it that much more incredible. It's Ohio State and Michigan that happened for our family. Since it's the greatest rivalry in sports, it just makes it that much more incredible in my mind. It makes me believe that much more that I'm supposed to be doing this, that I'm supposed to overcome this challenge."

The Mealers grew up as avid Ohio State fans, thanks to their dad, Dave, a good-natured bear of a man.

Brock Mealer is, for the most part, paralyzed from the waist down. His injuries occurred in a horrific accident on Christmas Eve of 2007. Brock was in the passenger seat and his father was driving their Mercedes-Benz SUV to midnight mass in a small town near their Northwestern Ohio home. Brock's mom, Elliott and Elliott's 17-year-old girlfriend, Hollis Richer, were in the back.

A 90-year-old man ran a stop sign, T-boning the Mealers' vehicle and flipping it on its right side. Elliott, who had just completed his senior year of high school and would start classes at Michigan in January, climbed out the broken back window with his mother. They found Hollis dead beneath the vehicle. Dave was also dead and lying on top of Brock, who was pinned by the vehicle's twisted metal.

Elliott, a 6-foot-5, 313-pounder, tore his rotator cuff attempting to free his brother.

Brock, just 13 hours short of graduating from Ohio State, was taken to a hospital and spent the better part of four months undergoing surgery and therapy. He was told he would never walk again.

Just a few months after he was released from the hospital, he returned to finish his degree in economics at Ohio State.

"Coach Tressel had invited me to a practice because he knew I still had to get back down there to get my degree," Brock said. "I called to ask about coming into a practice and one of the things I asked them was to make sure that Tyson Gentry would be around."

Gentry, a former walk-on punter and receiver for the Buckeyes, fell awkwardly while trying to make a catch during a practice in April of 2006. He suffered a broken vertebra in his neck and his spinal cord sustained damage. While continuing his education, he became a fixture at Ohio State's practices. He continues his rehab today, and still hopes to walk.

"I was amazed," said Brock, 26. "I'm always looked at as having a great attitude, but he really has a great attitude. It picks me up."

After he graduated, Brock returned home and continued his hard work to also regain the ability to walk. Four times a week, he drives himself to Ann Arbor to meet with University of Michigan trainers and strength coaches.

Just last Sept. 4, he led his brother and the rest of the Wolverines onto the field for the season-opener against Connecticut, with the help of two canes and leg braces. He was afraid he'd fall down in front of the 113,090 in attendance at The Big House.

He shouldn't have worried, with all of those people standing next to him.

"(Someone) told me that I would be the only person in the stadium that everyone was cheering for," he said. "I've been fortunate enough in life, whether Ohio State or Michigan, everybody's pulling for me."

Now Brock has become just one of the guys who goes through grueling workouts at Michigan. The players look over at him and marvel at his will, at what he's already overcome, at what lies ahead.

He is certain he'll walk, and soon. He's regaining some sensitivity in his feet. He squat-lifted a 45-pound weight this week. He can already take a few steps at a time.

It's not just his body which has changed.

Brock once said he couldn't wait to get out of college because he so disliked making presentations before a class. After the tragedy, he realized he had a story to tell. He now can't wait to get up in front of schools and church groups to tell how his life was spared, how his family soldiers on, how sometimes you have to overcome an obstacle that looks insurmountable.

"I've found," he said simply, "a calling to do that."

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has been one of his biggest supporters.

"Whatever you need," he told Brock, "you've got it."

Tressel and Ohio State's doctors and trainers have all done what they could for Brock, too.

When the Mealers held a golf tournament to raise funds in Dave Mealer's name for spinal-cord injury research, Tressel sent a signed helmet and football. It was a big hit with the many Buckeyes fans who were his dad's friends. Rodriguez and the Wolverines also sent a few signed items.

The funds from the silent auction and the tournament? They were split between the universities, two rival schools working together to help one family.



Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : noon

Here's another inspirational story about the human spirit... U-M's former place-kicker Phil Brabbs talking about his cancer challenge as presented at TEDxUofM April 2010:


Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 3:40 a.m.

Well, I'm sorry, but he's not going anywhere. And he's winning games. The rebuilding of the program just happened to take longer than you spoiled brats wanted it to.

3 And Out

Sat, Nov 27, 2010 : 1:25 a.m.

There are a few ways to look at this story. First of all, a lot of those people who want RR to stay try to twist the great Brock Mealer story in to Mother Rod Theresa and how great he is and how he should stay for 20 years despite all the losses as HC. OK Fine...not to take anything away from what Brock has went through, or from the support RR may have given him...but the fact is that most coaches in major college football do tons of charity work...its expected, in addition if someone were to come up to a major college coach in this type of situation and ask 'could you help us get my brother or this player rehabed' there is almost without a doubt certainty that most coaches would say yes absolutely...anything I can do to help I will... that is a fact. And it is a great great thing no doubt that people in position to help, do help and the young man Brock has worked his tail off to get better...unbelievable story.... but honestly RR was hired to win games at Michigan and has failed miserably... alot of his personal actions outside the losses turn people off too.. it all adds up to most people looking at the program, seeing how this man truly tore it down and his arrogant excuses and often finger pointing makes it no matter what happens with Brock or any other charity...the perception and reality is that RR is doing a terrible job as HC at Michigan and many people have no confidence that he will get Michigan back to the top of the Big perhaps people should cut the feel good defense back a bit...he was hired to win games honorably. He isnt doing it.


Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

I love how people spend countless hours bashing Rich Rod, yet don't say a single word about the good things he's done. Such as his handling of the whole Brock Mealer situation. But hey, you can't hate him if you acknowledge that he's not a demon, right?

3 And Out

Fri, Nov 26, 2010 : 5:28 p.m.

good story...keep going Brock