Senior Jake Meaders will tell you that playing in the 2019 Salt Bowl is a dream realized.
Starting this season as the wide receiver for the Bryant Hornets, Jake and his teammates have the opportunity to play in this year’s Salt Bowl, a high school rivalry between cities Benton and Bryant for the coveted title of Salt Bowl Champion. This year marks the 45th anniversary of the football tradition.
“The Salt Bowl is really cool to me because I grew up going to the game,” said Jake. “As a kid, watching the Salt Bowl was like watching grownups play the game. It’s cool now to know that kids will be watching me play, just like I watched the teams play when I was a kid.”
Jake’s interest in football began early on. At the age of three, Jake and his older brother, Dillion, would play football in the front yard, using hand-me-down equipment; these front yard practices taught him fundamentals of the game. Born in Little Rock and raised in Bryant, it was only natural for Jake to grow up knowing how to call the Arkansas Razorbacks. He attended his first Razorback football game just before his first birthday and has spent the last 15 years enjoying games on the hill with his family and friends.
“Since I was young, I can remember wanting to watch SportsCenter instead of cartoons,” said Jake.
Last season was particularly special for Jake and his teammates: Bryant brought home the 7A state championship title, beating North Little Rock 27 to 7. With a full season ahead of them, a lot of hard work and a little luck, they hope to hold onto the title this year as well.
“Bryant winning state last year for 7A football was the first time in school history that we have been to the state championship,” said Jake. “Growing up here, I knew it was crazy not just to dream that we would make it to the state championship but that we would win it too. We were excited and hadn’t stopped to think what we’d do when we did win.”
Whether he is on or off the football field, Jake leaves a positive impression. His coach Buck James explains that Jake’s moxie is what sets him apart from other students. “Jake is exceptionally smart, exceptionally tough and a winner–it is a rare combination in the football world, for sure,” said Coach James. “He is the type of football player that helps his team win. He does whatever it takes and always brings a work ethic that very few even know anything about. Jake never complains and never has a bad day.”
Since he began playing football with the Bryant Hornets, Jake has played a number of roles including the quarter back, slot receiver, wide receiver, punt returner, safety and corner.
“Jake does all this and is not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest,” continues Coach James. “He does all this because of great heart, great desire and the great passion he has for his team. Jake is what we all want a Hornet to be and represent on and off the field.”
Not only is Jake a superstar on the field, but also he excels in academics. This year Jake scored a 34 on the ACT, a near perfect score. Before he’s even begun applying for college, he’s been offered scholarships at Hendrix College and the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
While he’s already toured Rhodes College in Memphis and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Jake’s interests lie in where he can receive the best education–not necessarily the best place to play football. His favorite core subject is Math and he plans to major in finance or economics.
“My Junior year was really hard, but it makes me want to continue working hard so that I will continue to have this success in the future,” said Jake. “When it comes to sports my dad would say, ‘Have a backup plan–NFL stands for Not For Long, so you have to have a backup plan.’ I want to work hard so that my parents don’t have to pay for my college. It’s a relief to know that I also won’t have debt over my head after graduation.”
He credits a number of great teachers for his success thus far. One of his greatest teachers, his mom Kim teaches 9th grade math at the new Junior High in Bryant. Over the years, she’s taught engineering and math at Bethel Middle School, JA Fair and Benton school districts and her love of learning is now Jake’s passion helping to carry him through the next chapter of his life.
As for the 2019 Salt Bowl, Jake has a tradition before each game. “Before we go out, I pray every time,” said Jake. “I pray for safety over myself and my team. This season, I hope that I can be around my friends and that I’m able to make enough memories to remember my friends for the rest of my life.”