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Eric Peterson, Published May 12 2010

Meyer presents message to new audiences

Don Meyer’s recent schedule is not what one would expect from a fresh retiree.

He’s was in Frederick, S.D., and Wakefield, Neb., earlier in the week. By next Monday, he will have made stops in Fargo, Upland, Ind., Nashville and McMinnville, Tenn.

The list of destinations read like one of the many recruiting trips Meyer made is his 38-year college head coaching career that produced a record 923 career victories.

However, now those stops are for speaking engagements, coaching clinics and one of his grandkid’s graduations.

While Meyer, 65, retired from head coaching after this past season, the former Northern State coach hasn’t rested. Meyer will be the keynote speaker for the ChamberChoice Awards on Thursday at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

“I do like them because I can meet a lot of different people and maybe get some points across that will help them and I get a chance to compete because I have to prepare – you know, plan, prepare, practice and play just like we lost our last game type of idea,” Meyer said.

“I think it does fill that competition void a little bit, I really do. That’s tough to go completely out of competing.”

Meyer remains affiliated with Northern State, which is located in Aberdeen, S.D. He’s a regent distinguished professor and an assistant to the school president.

Promoting the school, speaking, fundraising and teaching online classes are among his duties.

“We’ve kind of kept him to ourselves a long time and now his story is out there,” said Brenda Dreyer, the university relations director at Northern State who is in charge of setting up Meyer’s appearances. “And now a lot more people are getting to experience what we’ve known for a long time.”

Dreyer said with each speaking engagement the demand for Meyer grows.

“Every day the calendar just gets fuller and fuller,” she said. “When someone hears his story, four more people want to hear it.”

John Papendick reported in a recent article in the Aberdeen American News that Meyer is set to travel more than 31,000 miles during a 50-day stretch that ends on May 26.

In that span, Meyer will have been to 30 events in 15 different states.

“I feel like I am useful in some sense so I want to be useful and help people,” Meyer said. “I think when I can do this, I need to do it. I think we’ve got something worth sharing or I wouldn’t be taking all the time to do it I guarantee you.”

His story has inspired many. In September 2008, Meyer was involved in a car accident that caused him to have his left leg amputated below the knee.

During surgery, it was also discovered that Meyer had inoperable cancer. Meyer was able to return to the team as head coach the next season, despite the accident.

Meyer’s final coaching victory was on Feb. 24 at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse, a 66-60 win over Minnesota State Moorhead.

“This has given him a much larger stage and he’s really taken advantage of that. He feels God has a reason for him,” Dreyer said. “God has a purpose why he spared his life. Coach is definitely using his gift.”

Meyer’s schedule will likely get busier next fall.

ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney is authoring a book titled “How Lucky You Can Be: The Story of Coach Don Meyer,” which is set to be released on Sept. 21.

“I’ve probably going to have to do a bunch of book tours with Buster,” Meyer said. “It’s going to be tight, but it’s not near as tight (as coaching) in terms of the pressure. You just don’t ever quit thinking about it when you’re coaching. … I couldn’t turn it off.”

Dreyer said a movie about Meyer – who won the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the ESPYs last July – could also be in the works.

“Kind of the joke now is who is going to play him in the movie,” Dreyer said. “That’s sort of the fun thing.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.