Sept. 17, 2009
By Larry Watts
Just because his father was a four-year letter winner on the Indiana University soccer team didn't mean Tommy Meyer would be a lock for the Hoosiers when he came out of St. Louis University High, one of Missouri's most elite soccer programs.
"My dad never put pressure on me to come to Bloomington," says the younger Meyer, now a sophomore middle defender for the Hoosiers. "He wanted me to come here, but he never told me that until after I made my decision. He just told me when I was making my decision to go wherever I wanted to go."
Keith Meyer collected 30 points (8 goals, 14 assists) while playing for the Hoosiers in 1980 and '82-84. All four of his teams advanced to the Final Four, winning the school's first back-to-back titles in 1982-83.
During the elder Meyer's final two seasons at Indiana, Mike Freitag, a former Hoosier All-American, worked the sidelines as a graduate assistant coach. Now Freitag is entering his sixth season as the Hoosiers' head coach.
"I was very familiar with Indiana and coach Freitag through all our trips here for alumni functions and games while I was growing up," Tommy says. "I thought I wanted to be part of it and this was the first place I took an official visit. But I also had to see what else was out there. I had to separate myself from knowing coach Freitag and actually playing for him."
Meyer's other visits took him to all Atlantic Coast Conference schools -- Maryland, Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest. While the nicer weather on the East Coast might be an attraction to some, Meyer said it didn't play into the equation.
"I actually like the cold weather," he says.
The final selection process came down to Indiana and Wake Forest with the Hoosiers winning out, making the Meyers the first father-son connection to play for Indiana. "It came down to tradition and getting along with the players better on my visit," he says.
According to Meyer, the best advice his father ever gave him was "Always work harder than everyone else and make sure you do everything you can to get better all the time because there will always be someone else who wants your spot."
A former all-state selection and two-time Parade All-American, Meyer got a good taste of international play when he was a member of the U-17 World Cup team in 2007. The squad posted a 1-3 record in South Korea, losing to Germany in the quarterfinals.
"That was an interesting, but very rewarding, experience," he says. "We were in a country where we didn't understand what anyone else was saying, but we were playing against the best kids in the world. It was pretty cool to see the different styles of play."
From the finesse style of international play, Meyer said he had a little difficulty adjusting to the more physical play of the college game at first.
"I really didn't start feeling comfortable until near the end of the year," he says. "That's when our team started putting it all together."
The Hoosiers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd straight season, but they fell 3-2 in overtime to St. John's in the quarterfinals.
"We should have made it to the Final Four," Meyer says. "It was a rough game, but I think we were the better team. They tied it up and beat us in overtime. We should have closed it out earlier in the game."
Meyer took his lessons learned from his first season and went right to work on his conditioning during the offseason. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder feels as though he is entering his second season as a much stronger player.
"I did a lot of work in the spring and then I went out to Seattle to play soccer during the summer," he says. "The soccer was pretty good out in the Northwest."
During his time in Seattle, he also worked for an investment company. He hopes to get admitted into Indiana's business school this spring.
"I'm not really sure what I want to do yet, but I do know I want to keep playing soccer after college," he says. "I still have some time to figure that out."
Although he says his father doesn't talk much about his own playing days, Meyer says he gets a gentle reminder every time he walks into Assembly Hall, where he sees spots him in a couple of NCAA championship photos.
"He looks a lot younger and thinner," the younger Meyer says with a laugh. "He talks more about the players he played with than himself. I hear more about my dad from other players at the reunions."
However, he does feel the national scope of the game has taken on a dramatic change since his father roamed the field 25 years ago.
"The quality of play, especially in the Big Ten, has gotten a lot better," he says. "We (the Big Ten) have more teams getting into the NCAA Tournament each year now.
"But I still think we have the ability to make it to the Final Four. My dad has two championship rings, so I still have to go out and get my first one."