Eddie Doyle Meador, born on August 10, 1937, left a lasting legacy in the world of American football. He was a professional football player who played as a cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (NFL) for an impressive 12 seasons, from 1959 to 1970. Meador’s journey to NFL stardom began in his early days, and his contributions to the game are still celebrated today.
High School Glory
Meador’s football journey kicked off at Russellville High School (RHS), where he graduated in 1955. During his high school years, he made a name for himself as an All-Region and All-State football player. His athletic prowess extended beyond the gridiron; he was a three-sport letterman, excelling in football, basketball, and track. In 1954, Meador’s leadership on the football field helped the Cyclones secure the Region 3AA football championship. His remarkable high school achievements earned him a place in the RHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
College Star at Arkansas Tech
After high school, Meador took his talents to Arkansas Tech University (ATU) in Russellville. His college football career, spanning from 1955 to 1958, showcased his versatility as he played multiple roles, including tailback, defensive back, return specialist, and co-captain for the Wonder Boys. Meador’s dedication to athletics extended to basketball and track at ATU as well.
During his time at ATU, Meador earned numerous accolades. He was named All-Conference in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) in 1957-58 and achieved the distinction of being named Little All-American following his senior season. His college football career statistics were equally impressive, with 3,410 rushing yards and 259 points scored. In 1958, Meador and his team clinched the AIC championship.
Meador’s college football journey wasn’t just about winning titles; he set records that would stand for years. He unofficially set 19 collegiate records, some of which have been surpassed over time. To cap off his college football career, Meador was invited to play in the Optimist Bowl in Tucson, where Division I all-star-caliber players faced off against those from smaller colleges. Playing alongside renowned teammates like John Madden and John Wooten, Meador showcased his skills, even though his team narrowly missed victory. In recognition of his achievements, he was voted Arkansas Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1958. Eddie Meador also graduated with a teaching degree in Social Studies and Physical Education in 1959.
In 1959, Eddie Meador’s dream of playing in the NFL became a reality when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 7th Round as the 80th overall pick. As a rookie, he quickly made a name for himself by starting as a cornerback and earning the title of the Rams’ Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Meador’s NFL career was filled with notable achievements. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in his second season and earned second-team All-Pro honors. In 1961, he tied for the NFL lead in fumbles recovered and was named All-Conference by The Sporting News. The following year, in 1962, Meador set a Rams record by blocking 4 kicks.
Throughout the 1960s, Meador continued to shine. He played a pivotal role in the Rams’ defense, whether as a cornerback or free safety. In 1966, he picked off 5 passes, recovered 3 fumbles, and logged 97 tackles. The following season, he had 100 tackles, intercepted 8 passes (2 of which he returned for touchdowns), and was named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. This was an honor he would repeat in 1968 and 1969, solidifying his place among the NFL’s elite.
A Football Legend’s Legacy
Eddie Meador retired from professional football after the 1970 season. His impact on the game is still felt today. He remains the Rams’ all-time interception leader with 46 interceptions, holds the team record for most opponents’ fumbles recovered with 18, and blocked 10 kicks, a testament to his exceptional skills and tenacity.
Meador’s contributions did not go unnoticed. He was voted the Rams’ “defensive back of the year” seven times and was named to the Los Angeles Rams All-Time team in both 1970 and 1985. He also earned a well-deserved spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1960s.
Merlin Olsen, another football legend, had high praise for Meador, describing him as “one of the finest defensive backs” he had ever seen. Olsen highlighted Meador’s coverage skills, tackling ability, and knack for making game-changing plays.
Eddie Meador’s influence extended beyond the football field. He served as the NFL Players Association President in 1969-1970, demonstrating his leadership both on and off the field. His impact was also recognized with numerous honors and inductions, including being inducted into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction in 1969, receiving the NFL Father of the Year award in 1969, and earning a spot in the NAIA Collegiate Hall of Fame.
In 2012, the Professional Football Researchers Association honored Meador by inducting him into the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2012.
Remembering a Football Legend
On September 4, 2023, Eddie Doyle Meador passed away at the age of 86, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in American football. His journey from a high school standout to an NFL legend serves as an inspiration to aspiring athletes everywhere. Eddie Meador’s impact on the game and his lasting contributions to football history will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.