By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For years, Austin Meyer’s birthday meant tickets to a Cal Bears football game, a natural destination for a boy equally interested in sports and academics. Plus his brother Jordan attended UC Berkeley.
But you can cancel the blue-and-gold cake and candles this September. A standout student and athlete at Maria Carrillo High School, Meyer is now firmly on the other side of the Bay Area’s biggest college sports rivalry.
Meyer headed to Stanford earlier this month to begin training with the Cardinal soccer team, the next level for a player who was team and league MVP at Carrillo.
Such a change in allegiance naturally caused a minor stir in the family, not least because Meyer revealed his decision to Jordan by e-mailing a photo of himself next to a trash can, poised to throw away his Cal posters.
It was all in good fun, Meyers said. He’s competitive with Jordan and middle brother, Brendan, but he counts them as friends as much as role models.
Family is important to Meyer. He chose Stanford over other suitors partly so his parents could watch his games, as they have during his years with club team Santa Rosa United and with Maria Carrillo.
Stanford’s emphasis on sports also was a big draw, although Meyer said the classroom remains his top priority. He is undecided on a major, with interests spanning from creative writing to neuroscience.
Certainly he seems to have the breadth of interest and talent to go in many directions. A self-taught mandolin player, he also has a knack for performing to others’ music.
He and his fellow members of the “Temptations,” clad in mock tuxedos, won Carrillo’s lip syncing contest the past two years in a row.
Meyer also likes to relax by making Rube Goldberg machines, absurdly complex contraptions created for stunningly simple tasks. He and a friend recently invented a apparatus that used weights, levers, balls, Slinkies and a fan, just to throw away a piece of paper.
The device’s inefficiency contrasts with Meyer’s real world concerns for conservation. He and a friend started “The Caravaners,” a biking group that rode to school twice a week to reduce their carbon footprint. The record turnout was 52 cyclists, Meyer said. Just to make it fun, they all wore yellow.
His career goals are still undetermined. Following his father, a cardiologist, into medicine is one possibility, with many avenues soon to be explored. Above all, there’s the dream of playing soccer for a living. If Meyer continues his pace of improvement, that long-shot goal has a chance.
Dave Shaffer, director of coaching at Santa Rosa United, remembers an Under-14 tournament in Los Angeles at which Meyer was so light and gangly the wind seemed to push him backward. At the time, Shaffer doubted Meyer ever would be a top player for United.
Two years later, a physically matured Meyer had risen to new levels. Shaffer said they were at a tournament in Phoenix when Yale University’s coach pointed to Meyer, asked who he was and declared him the best player on the field. “That was his coming out party,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer says Meyer’s success stems from focus, dedication and smarts. Meyer’s soccer IQ is like having a second coach on the field, he said.
Mike Mastin, Meyer’s coach through four varsity years at Carrillo, agreed. He said Meyer has a vision on the field beyond his years. That talent combined with his attitude make him a perfect teammate.
“He’s able to attack everything with so much fun,” Mastin said. “It rubs off on everybody. You can’t help but have a good time doing what you’re doing.”
You can contact Staff Writer Sam Scott at 521-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUSTIN MEYERAge: 18
School: Maria Carrillo High School
Family: Mother Pam, father Roy, brothers Brendan and Jordan
Heroes: Michael Essien, Chris Thile, Sahaj Nijjar, My Temptation Brothers, Mr. Kammer, Freddy Myles
Favorite films: “Shawshank Redemption,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Blood Diamond”
Favorite book: “Frog and Toad Series” by Arnold Lobel
Favorite music: The Punch Brothers, The Sugar Cubes
Hidden talent: Mario Tennis on Nintendo 64
Secret weakness: Climbing fences
Dream job: Playing for Chelsea FC