by Lee Passmore | from amarillo.com posted 8/21/2012
photos by Dexter Harper | North Amarillo Now
You won’t have to look hard to find Montrel Meander in a Palo Duro football game this season, regardless of whether the Dons have the ball.
Meander will be involved in just about every play from scrimmage this season, or at least the important ones. On defense, he’ll be the free safety, trying to prevent teams from completing passes against the Dons. On offense, he’ll be a wide receiver, trying to catch passes against those teams.
In any case, Meander figures to be around the ball a lot in his senior season.
“I only come off when I need a little break,” said Meander, a three-year starter at safety. “(Palo Duro’s coaches) let me out if I need at quick blow. I just like to compete.”
That’s been proven during Meander’s career, as he’s made a major impact on both sides of the ball. As a sophomore, he was a first team District 3-4A pick as a defensive back, and last season as a junior, he was a first team 3-4A pick on offense as a running back.
Meander is staying at safety this year but is moving to a different position on offense. Either way, it’s an indication of how valuable he’ll be to the Dons this season.
“We have to keep him on the field a great deal,” Palo Duro coach Steve Parr said of Meander. “He’s a year older and a year faster and is going to be a really big factor.”
And he’s already been one for two years. You don’t get to be all-district on both sides of the ball without your coaches noticing your talent.
Still, it came as a mild shock to Meander last season when the PD coaching staff wanted him to play more on offense. While he’d been a receiver dating back to sixth grade, he’d never played running back.
“(The coaching staff) told me before the season started that I’d be playing some running back,” Meander said. “I didn’t expect that. I just had to memorize plays.”
Meander proved to be a quick study in the offensive backfield. He led the Dons with 572 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, averaging better than 5 yards a carry.
Considering that Meander qualified for the state track meet in the spring in the 200 meters, it’s no surprise that Palo Duro’s coaches wanted to use his speed on offense as well. But Meander prefers playing free safety, where speed is just as big a factor.
“It’s pretty simple,” Meander said of playing safety. “Just don’t let anybody run past you. If you see the ball, just make a play on it.”
Now he’ll have to do the same thing on offense as well when the ball is in the air. The Dons already have some proven receivers returning from last season in all-district selection Charleston White and Joseph Taylor. Quarterback Malik Sims returns as well.
Meander will have to get up to speed to be a contributor to Palo Duro’s passing game, which Parr placed a greater emphasis on last season after putting the Wing-T in the drawer for most of the season. Experience as a safety should help Meander adapt as a route runner.
“I think I’m quick enough to separate from the defensive backs who are guarding me,” Meander said. “For me, knowing the places to stay out of as a safety, it will make it easier to make a play.”
It seems as if making plays on either side of the ball is what Meander is about. That and his speed have gotten him looks from Division I football programs such as Texas Tech, New Mexico and Wyoming, among others.
Meander would seem more like a natural at safety at the collegiate level, but Parr’s requirements of him this season are more far ranging.
“I think that you can go beyond this level and predict where he’ll play,” Parr said of Meander. “He’s just involved in all phases of the game, including the kicking game, and that can only help us.”
Especially when the ball is in the air.