Ron Meyer; for­mer Pats head coach

Woonsocket Call - - Region/obituaries -

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ron Meyer, the foot­ball coach behind SMU's pow­er­house "Pony Ex­press" teams who later called for a snow­plow to clear a spot so the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots could kick the win­ning field goal against Mi­ami in one of the NFL's most mem­o­rable mo­ments, has died. He was 76.

Meyer died Tues­day af­ter col­laps­ing with an aor­tic aneurism while play­ing golf in the Austin sub­urb of Lake­way, his fam­ily said in a state­ment.

"It's no ac­ci­dent that at ev­ery stop he coached down­trod­den teams to great heights. He gave them hope. They be­lieved in him. And he showed them the way," the Meyer fam­ily said.

"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 for­mer NFL star Eric Dick­er­son, who played for Meyer at SMU from 19791981.

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 jaw-drop­ping 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 Pa­tri­ots in 1982. He would spend parts of nine sea­sons in the NFL, and his first one pro­duced per­haps his most mem­o­rable mo­ment.

Meyer was named AFC coach of the year in the strike-short­ened 1982 sea­son when led the Pa­tri­ots to a 5-4 record and the play­offs 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 23-yard 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 6140-1, and 54-50 in the NFL.

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