Texas lost one of its favorite sons today — Joseph Don Meredith. He passed away in Santa Fe, NM at the age of 72. His wife, Susan, and his daughter were at his side.
Like so many others here in the Lone Star State, I am deeply saddened. I feel as though I've lost a member of my family.
Though I never met Meredith, I grew up watching him play a lot of football. I remember watching him throw the ball as an All-American quarterback for the Mustangs at SMU in the late 1950s. Later, I remember watching him become an All-Pro quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. It was then that 17 became a favorite number!
I always watched Meredith on TV, while sitting in our family room, next to my dad - a loyal and devoted FOM (Fan of Meredith).
My dad always said, "Meredith is a natural athlete."
Meredith was tall and strong - like a quarterback ought to be! When Meredith threw the ball, he did so with precision and power! That was obvious.
Meredith was also a really handsome guy. Even back then, that fact wasn't lost on me! So, like my dad, being a fan of Meredith came easy!
When Meredith retired and landed the job on Monday Night Football, my dad and I watched him routinely. Both of us loved Meredith's sense of humor and, at times, his lack of reverence. I will never forget the many times he would sing Willie Nelson's classic, "Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over," when the game was nearly over and it was apparent which team would get the win.
About a dozen years ago, I found myself spending a weekend in Mt. Vernon, Texas, the hometown of Don Meredith. I was told the general store on the town square had a lot of Don Meredith memorabilia among its shelves, so I went in there to check it out. Happy was I to see the owner's collection of footballs, jerseys and helmets - all autographed by Don Meredith. Needless to say, none were available for sale!
Tonight I can't help but think about a special friend of mine — a sports journalist — who also grew up watching Meredith play football. But, in his case, he watched the exploits of Meredith from the sidelines of the fields at SMU and at the Cotton Bowl.
There is no athlete my friend admires more than Don Meredith. An old football autographed by Meredith sits on the mantel of his fireplace. It is his most prized possession.
About six or seven years ago, my friend traveled out to Santa Fe to interview Meredith and put that conversation on video. When he returned, he couldn't stopped talking about the experience.
My friend has watched that video many, many times since then. I can't help but wonder if - tonight - he will try to watch it again! And, if he does, will it ease or sharpen the pain of loss?