Le’Nard Meyers is familiar with Bulldawg Stadium.
He has vivid memories of playing on the field, just not pleasant ones.
Gatesville’s former standout receiver experienced his first playoff game in 2009 at Copperas Cove. The then-junior’s 66-yard touchdown gave the Hornets a 7-0 advantage against Burnet with 1 minute, 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
Then it all fell apart.
The Bulldogs responded by scoring 38 unanswered points, ruining Meyers’ playoff debut.
Now, he has a second opportunity to conquer Bulldawg Stadium.
Tarleton State’s leading receiver and the rest of the Texans will face Ouachita Baptist in the nightcap of the 13th annual C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Just like during his days at Gatesville, Meyers is expecting to see lots of his old school colors in the stands as he returns to the area following a breakout sophomore season.
“(Over thanksgiving break, my former coaches) were telling me how they want to get a bus so students can come watch me play, and my family members will be there because it is so close,” Meyers said. “There is going to be a lot of love from my hometown.”
The doubleheader begins at 11 a.m. between junior colleges Trinity Valley Community College and Mesa Community College (AZ).
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2011, Meyers, who was a KDHpressbox.com All-Area First Team member as a senior at Gatesville, caught four passes for 60 yards last year before earning a spot on the All-Lone Star Conference Second Team this season.
Meyers was responsible for a team-best 731 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 58 receptions this season, helping the Texans (7-3, 5-1) earn a share of the conference championship with Eastern New Mexico, and he intends to conclude the season with another strong showing.
“I guess it was just the way I was brought up, but I (just can’t) be satisfied with what I’m doing,” Meyers said. “I can always do better than what I’m doing right now.”
Gatesville’s former four-sport star is not the lone area product set to compete in the Heart of Texas Bowl, though.
Tarleton State juniors Andre Allen (DE) and Ben Katzemeyer (LB) graduated from Ellison and Florence, respectively, while Ouachita Baptist junior linebacker Gerald Warner played for Killeen.
For Heart of Texas Bowl founder and Copperas Cove head football coach Jack Welch, having area talent return to compete as collegiate athletes is a nice byproduct of simply fielding the best teams possible.
“We’ve had teams that really wanted to come here but were unable to because of conference tie-ins with other bowl games,” Welch said. “Our goal is to give the teams, their followers and our local fans the best games we can.”
A limited number of free tickets are available at all area Bush’s Chicken locations, as well as First Texas Bank of Copperas Cove and Hoffpauir Autoplex in Lampasas, but complementary tickets must be picked up prior to Saturday. Reserved seating tickets will be available on game day for $20 and general admission is $10 with the cost covering both games.
Meyers has yet to win a postseason game in his career after the Hornets lost their playoff openers in both his junior and senior seasons, and Tarleton State has not played in a bowl game since winning the Sunflower Bowl in 1986.
Last year, Gatesville had the second-best season in school history, and Meyers watched his alma mater’s 13-1 season intently from afar.
“You know the young guys you have at your school, but you don’t know how good they are going to be until they actually get together and start playing,” he said. “I was following them, just like they were following me.”
Plenty will be in attendance to specifically support Meyers, who helped Gatesville end a six-year absence from the football playoffs, while also earning all-district honors in basketball, track and cross country, and the fact his hometown has not forgotten about him since graduating is humbling.
“I feel famous, even though I’m not famous,” he said. “It is just a feeling that I’ve never experienced before.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org