Shouldering the load

More news about: WPI
Steve Mey, right, gets to play in front of his family and spend time at home when possible.
WPI athletics photo

By Brian Lester

Picture your typical student-athlete in-season experience: attending classes, doing homework, going to practice, traveling back and forth to games, eating and sleeping when possible. Majoring in mechanical engineering adds yet another layer to that.

Steve Mey, a senior at WPI, already has a lot on his plate. But add on to that, the fact that his mother, Karen, suffers from ALS. So at least once a week, sometimes twice, Mey makes the 35-plus minute drive back home to spend time with her.

He chose to play football for the Engineers for this purpose. When his mother was diagnosed his senior year of high school, he wanted to stay close to home.

“We knew the extent of the disease and what it can do over time, but my family didn’t want anything stopping me from living out what I really wanted to do, which was to play football and go to school,” Mey said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to come to school here.”

It would have been tough for sure to make those trips home that mean so much to the senior free safety.

“It’s definitely a hard balance, but everyone is aware of the situation and that allows me to be flexible with what I can do. My teammates and coaches are all supportive,” Mey said. “During the week after practice, I’ll go home one night. It’s nice to be able to go and help out.”

It is only fitting, in a lot of ways, that Mey does this for his mom, someone who has been there for him so often throughout his life.

Steve Mey and his family, on the sidelines at a WPI home game.
Photo by Linda Flibbert

“I remember her leaving work early for my high school baseball games, coming to games that were hours away, even when it was snowing and cold,” Mey said. “She’d be at my Pop Warner and high school football games, too. It’s always meant a lot.”

And even now, with his mother suffering from a disease that affects the nervous system, weakening muscles and impacting physical function, she is still at almost every game, supporting her son just as she always has throughout his athletic career.

“My dad is a saint with everything that involves her,” Mey said. “He makes sure she gets out to the games. She’s there at all the home games and usually all the away games. As it gets colder, it gets a little harder, but arrangements are made to make it work. She wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

It means the world to Mey that his mom is there in the stands, especially this season, his last one at the college level, playing for a WPI team that is unbeaten through seven games.

“It means a little more for her to be out there to see me play. It’s unbelievable having her there,” Mey said. “I always go up to my family right before the game, before the coin toss and national anthem. It’s definitely reassuring to see them there. It gives me a little extra strength.”

That strength is in his mom as well. Mey is reminded of that every day and uses it to to keep pushing him forward on the football field.

“It helps my mom is a strong person,” Mey said. “She’s always positive in some situations that I don’t know how you can be positive in. She always seems to have a smile on her face. She just wants the best for everyone else around her.”

WPI head coach Chris Robertson calls Mey one of the hardest working players on the team. And at 5-9, 180 pounds, Robinson said Mey, pound for pound, is the strongest player on the team. He also just might be the most respected player because of everything he is balancing in his life.

“The entire team has so much respect for him,” Robertson said. “He has all the right in the world to have other things going on in his life that keep him away from football. But he’s never late for anything and he has a great attitude. For him to be a leader by example, to not make excuses and hold himself accountable with everything going on in his life, it sends him over the top of being somebody who is really special and somebody other kids on the team can look up to.”

Mey is one of 35 seniors on a WPI team that is rolling through a special season. The Engineers just set a record for points in a game in a 66-13 win over Merchant Marine last Saturday to keep their perfect record intact. WPI is 7-0.

That same bond and support system Mey has been able to lean on with everything going on with his mother is the same one that has helped fuel this team to a position of perhaps being the best team in school history.

“We came in as freshmen and knew we had a really strong class, more than just football wise, but brotherhood wise, too,” Mey said. “We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are at, always pushing each other. It’s been great so far. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

The Engineers, who boast a 4-0 record in NEWMAC play, have crossed the 50-point mark four times and have held four teams to 13 points or less. Robertson said having a veteran group of players has been instrumental in the team’s success.

“It’s gotten to the point where it’s a lot less coaching and more on relying on the seniors and their maturity,” Robertson said. “The communication line between the players and coaches is great. These guys understand how we do things and understand what it takes to be successful. We can focus on the finer points as coaches and get to that next level.”

Mey has played a part in that. He ranks third in tackles (38) and leads the team in pass breakups (5).

“His confidence is better. He’s been behind some pretty good players on our defense the past few years and has quietly waited his turn,” Robertson said. “He’s been good on special teams and things like that and has earned the trust of the coaching staff. There’s never been any doubt. He does everything the right way.”

Mey noted he’s become a better leader as well and said he’s enjoying having a key role on the team. But his focus is on the team as a whole and just finding a way to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

“We just have to keep that mentality of going 1-0 every week,” Mey said. “We can’t look back at past accomplishments because they don’t mean anything going into the next game. We have to stay humble and not take anyone lightly.”

The fact that his senior season has been the best one yet means a little more to him because his family gets to see it, especially his mom.

“It’s definitely great that my parents get to see it all, especially my senior year,” Mey said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m blessed to be at one of the best engineering schools and getting an opportunity to play football for a great program.”