Brad Meester shows his feminine side
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Brad Meester enlisted for one of the more physically taxing jobs in the NFL when he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line 12 years ago.
For more than a decade, he's diligently blocked, shifted and redirected 300-plus pounds of moving force away from his quarterbacks. For more than 4,000 days, he's arduously jerked and cleaned hefty weights to keep his body in mint condition, and for more than 6,000 hours, he's meticulously studied film to break down opposing defenses.
But disciplines of this assignment are mere child's play compared to his second job: raising five daughters.
"Everybody thinks it's super chaotic, which it is super chaotic, but you gotta realize that after three it was chaotic anyway," Meester said. "It didn't get any crazier. It just stayed chaotic, and we added on to it."
Meet the Meester household board of directors: Lily, 10; Emma, 7; Chloe, 6; Sophia, 3; and Aubree, 11 months. They set the agenda for their parents' amazing juggling act, which also includes caring for the family's 13-year-old black Labrador, Rocky, and, before a few months ago, two guinea pigs, Molly and the late Brownie. Jamie Meester is the chief operating officer who breathlessly executes this daily enterprise, and Brad, 35, is one part CEO and one part dutiful employee trying to keep the board satisfied.
Blocking a Ray Lewis blitz is hard, but trying to paint the delicate fingernails of a child proved to be a challenge Brad has yet to master.
"It was going all over the place," Lily said of her dad's last attempt at applying nail polish. "It wasn't that good."
"They got little, teeny fingernails and I have big fingers so that doesn't work very well together," Brad said.
The NFL is a multibillion-dollar business thanks to a passionate and loyal fan base that watches the games, buys the tickets and jerseys, and memorizes every stat and highlight.
But in the Meester home, you'll find no trace of this glamorized profession. Dad doesn't have any trophies lying around from his state championship run at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Iowa. There aren't any plaques -- for his 2008 Ed Block Courage Award -- or any other past football achievements hanging on the walls.
And a separate man cave? Forget about that. Brad has learned to enjoy playing with the mounds of pink plastic toys.
"It's opened up my softer side I guess," he said. "I enjoy doing their stuff like [playing] Barbies with them or dolls. I don't mind doing that. I mean, there's nothing else in this house. There's no cars, no guns ..."
"No bows and arrows," Jamie interjected with a chuckle.
"They don't have any of that stuff," he said.
Brad was somewhat prepared for his journey into the estrogen zone, having grown up with two sisters on a farm in Iowa. He plans on moving his family back to the state when he finishes his NFL career. The Meesters' new home is being built on 80 acres in Cedar Rapids, about an hour and a half from the couple's hometown. And yes, it has a massive man cave and shop where Brad can store his collection of motorcycles and race cars. An old silver and black race car Brad painted in homage to Dale Earnhardt sits in the front yard of their Jacksonville home. He talks about figure-eight racing one day.
Sometimes, when the Meesters travel back to Iowa in the summer to visit family, Brad takes his oldest daughter hunting for bonding time. These are some of Lily's favorite memories.
"There's usually turkeys in the trees or hawks," she said. "We sit there real quiet, and I watch video games."
Quiet moments are rare for the Meesters. Most days go like this: Brad heads out of the house around 5:30 a.m. to watch film or get treatments. Jamie gets the three oldest girls ready for school, then drops their 3-year-old at daycare. Then she attempts to run a few errands with the baby. The show resumes around 3 p.m. as everyone trickles back home. When Brad has the day off or gets home earlier, he helps the older children with their homework. The family tries to eat dinner no later than 5:30 p.m., because that kicks off the second phase of the day: soccer practice, basketball practice, cheerleading practice and tutoring sessions. Brad usually stays up late with the baby on Sunday or Monday after his game to allow Jamie to get some rest.
And if that isn't enough action, the couple host Bible study at their home on Wednesday evenings. Time is a limited commodity, but the Meesters work hard to make sure their daughters understand their Christian faith.
"Early on in my career, I thought God's purpose was for me to play football. But I realize that wasn't the case. It was to be able to use football. There are so many opportunities when you do something like this to reach out to a community," Brad said. "I hope they see that."Brad developed a close relationship with a 6-year-old Jaguars fan, Luke Akerstrom, two years ago. Akerstrom had a seizure and was unable to walk for several months. Brad regularly visited Luke in the hospital. After Brad left for training camp last year, Luke used his first time seeing Brad again as motivation to learn how to walk again.
Brad also helped raise $90,000 to rebuild his hometown after a tornado demolished his high school and destroyed countless homes, including that of his in-laws, four years ago. He took the time off during last year's NFL lockout as an opportunity to visit orphanages in Haiti with his church.
Football is important, but raising loving, caring daughters is essential.
"For me, there's nothing better than coming home after work and when you walk through the door and they all come running up screaming for you and giving you a hug," Brad said. "I think that's one of the most exciting parts of my day."
So exciting, in fact, that Brad thinks there is room for one more child.
"He wants to fill a suburban," Jamie said. "I don't want to go past that."
"I'm pretty sure Aubree is not going to be the last," Brad said. "We are open to having one more. I'm positive we wouldn't go past one more ... of course, we said that when we had four."