For­mer SMU and NFL coach Ron Meyer dies at 76

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - OBITUARIES - By Jim Ver­tuno

AUSTIN, TEXAS » Ron Meyer, the foot­ball coach be­hind SMU’s pow­er­house “Pony Ex­press” teams and whose call for a snow­plow to clear a spot so the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots could kick the game-win­ning field goal against Mi­ami in one of the NFL’s most mem­o­rable mo­ments, has died at the age of 76.

Meyer died Tues­day in Austin, said Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones of Tar­ry­town United Methodist Church. De­tails on Meyer’s death, which was first an­nounced by In­di­anapo­lis Colts owner Jim Ir­say and for­mer SMU and NFL star Eric Dick­er­son on so­cial me­dia, were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

“Dev­as­tated to hear the pass­ing of my coach and great friend Ron Meyer. My mom and I loved Coach Meyer. He was a great man,” tweeted Dick­er­son, who played for Meyer at SMU from 1979-1981.

That was SMU’s hey­day, when the Mus­tangs, led by run­ning backs Dick­er­son and Craig James, turned a mid­dling pro­gram into a South­west Con­fer­ence cham­pion be­fore it skid­ded to­ward the NCAA’s “death penalty” rul­ing for jaw­drop­ping rules vi­o­la­tions.

Meyer won 27 games in three sea­sons at UNLV be­fore tak­ing the job at SMU in 1976. Af­ter early strug­gles, the pro­gram — which had al­ready been sanc­tioned by the NCAA for in­frac­tions be­fore Meyer ar­rived — took off as wealthy boost­ers, fu­eled by the re­gion’s eco­nomic boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, got caught up in a pay­ment scheme de­signed to bring in top play­ers. The cheat­ing sur­vived long af­ter Meyer left for the NFL and even­tu­ally led the NCAA to first put the pro­gram on pro­ba­tion in 1985 then shut it down in 1987.

Meyer left SMU be­fore the harsh­est sanc­tions hit, tak­ing over the Pa­triot in 1982. He would spend parts of nine sea­sons in the NFL and his first one pro­duced per­haps his most mem­o­rable mo­ment.

Meyer led the Pa­tri­ots to a 5-4 record and the play­offs in the strike-short­ened 1982 sea­son with a key vic­tory over the Dol­phins in a De­cem­ber snow­storm in New Eng­land. Be­fore the game, the Pa­tri­ots of­fered $10 and a free ticket to any­one who would help shovel snow out of the seats. The con­di­tions didn’t let up, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for field crews just to clear the yard mark­ers.

The game was 0-0 and both teams had al­ready missed field goals when Meyer called time out late in the fourth quar­ter and sent a stadium worker named Mark Hen­der­son out to clear the Mi­ami 23yard line for John Smith’s 33-yard at­tempt.

“(Meyer) said, ‘Get out there and do some­thing.’ I knew ex­actly what he meant, so I jumped on the trac­tor,” Hen­der­son told the Bos­ton Globe in 2010.

With clear turf, Smith eas­ily made the kick as Dol­phins coach Don Shula fu­ri­ously looked on from the op­po­site side­line. The fi­nal score was 3-0.

“I wanted to go out there and punch him out,” Shula said years later. “In ret­ro­spect, I should have laid down in front of the snow­plow.”

The snow­plow wasn’t re­ally a snow­plow. The green John Deere trac­tor with a brush rigged onto the front is still on dis­play in the Pa­tri­ots’ hall of fame.

Meyer spent two and a half sea­sons with the Pa­tri­ots, then coached the Colts from 1986 to 1991 and led the team to a division ti­tle in 1987. Meyer’s ca­reer coach­ing record in col­lege was 61-40-1. He was 54-50 in the NFL.

“I am sad to hear of Ron Meyer’s pass­ing,” said Pa­tri­ots Chair­man and CEO Robert Kraft. “He was a col­or­ful head coach who was very en­ter­tain­ing for fans dur­ing his ten­ure.”

Meyer was born in Wester­ville, Ohio, on Feb. 17, 1941, and he was a walkon foot­ball player at Pur­due. Jones said memo­rial service is planned for Satur­day at Tar­ry­town United. De­tails on sur­vivors were in­com­plete.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ron Meyer, show as New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots head coach in 1982, died Tues­day at age 76.

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