Dutch Myer - Former Central coach finds success in business

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Decorated athlete. Winning coach. Respected basketball official. Successful businessman.

To most folks, he's just "Dutch."

Raised in the German community of New Wells, Mo., Ryland Meyr's family moved to Chaffee when he was in the seventh grade. Upon his arrival the first day of school, the teacher called him to the front of the classroom and asked him to introduce himself to his new classmates.

As he did so with a thick German accent, one student blurted, "He's a Dutchman."

Meyr responded, "Nah, I'm not Dutch, I'm German."

From that day on he was "Dutch."

Since 1958, Ryland Meyr has filled a variety of roles with class and dignity.

"I went to college as a kid, and I like to feel that I left as a man," Meyr said. "That was Kenny Knox's big thing, building character and molding men, and he probably did as good a job of it as anyone could have. He always wanted you to be a gentleman first, then a football player."

Meyr credits Knox, the winningest coach in Southeast football history, and his college line coach, Jim Hamby, with much of the success he has enjoyed as a player, coach and, later on, a businessman.

"Hamby taught toughness," said Meyr, smiling. "He loved to torture you, so you played your heart out because you didn't want to go through those grueling Monday practices after a poor effort."

Meyr, a 1958 graduate of Chaffee High School, came to Southeast Missouri State University -- then called Southeast Missouri State College -- and became a four-year starter at tackle. He achieved Little All-American status as a senior in 1961.

During his time at Southeast, the durable Meyr, who never missed a game, played on two Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship teams.

After his senior season he was presented the Goddard Award, named in honor of Wayne Goddard, a former Little All-American on Southeast's first unbeaten and untied team in 1937.

Meyr also threw the shot and discus in track and even turned out for basketball his senior season.

"That was back in the days when you could still hammer people," said Meyr, then a muscular 6-foot-4, 220 pounder, who, by his own admission, played with more force than finesse.

But fate played a major hand in his decision to attend Southeast.

Frank Broyles, the University of Missouri coach, had been recruiting Meyr since his junior year at Chaffee.

"I was dead set on going to Mizzou; there were no other thoughts in my mind," Meyr said.

But Broyles opted to take the head coach position at the University of Arkansas and during the transition between Broyles and the new head coach, the late Dan Devine, the recruiting process was on hold until the new staff was hired.

Meyr waited and waited for the call from Mizzou and it never came. Meanwhile Knox was regularly in touch with Meyr and finally, tired of waiting, he committed to Southeast.

The next day Devine's top assistant Doug Weaver showed up at Meyr's doorstep to recruit him.

"I always practiced that my word was good and I had committed to Southeast and that's the way it stayed," he said. "But it is kind of interesting to think about how my life would have gone had they hired him a day earlier."

After graduating from Southeast in 1962, Meyr got a call from his old high school coach, Bob Goodwin, then the football coach at Cape Girardeau Central.

And when the owner of Fruitland Dressed Meats was experiencing health problems and wanted to sell, Myer took the challenge.

Lessons learned as a player and a coach have carried over into the way he runs his business.

"I really didn't know anything about the business, so I incorporated some of the things I had used as a coach: Organizing, holding squad meetings and making game plans. And it works.

"When everybody shows up and does a good job, it's like winning the game."

In spite of his success as a businessman, Meyr has one small nagging regret about the course his life has taken.

"I felt like I never really finished my coaching career," he said. "I wanted to get away from it for awhile and see what the business world was like, but I regret never coming back."

From 1962 until now, Meyr has officiated high school basketball games, including four state championships, and he can't find anyone who's been doing it longer.

"Some people go fishing, some play golf or whatever it might be, but refereeing does all that for me," he said. "Where else can you get a good workout, take a good hot shower and meet a lot of good people."

What does a man who has eyed the sports scene from all perspectives think about today's athletes?

"Well, maybe they aren't quite as tough-minded as the older guys, but that's no fault of the kids," Meyr said. "The environment is just different. They're used to air-conditioning and comfort.

"Now, part of what I'm saying I believe, but, in retrospect, when I went back to Central the second time, I was told that the kids had changed, they weren't as tough and all, but those were the smartest, toughest kids I'd ever coached. I really don't think kids are all that much different, you've just got to find the ones that really want to play."

llewis@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 171

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