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Utah State linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer finding ways to train during COVID-19 pandemic, with an eye on the Mountain West championship

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (22) carries against Utah State linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer (33) in the first half of a college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

LOGAN — On any given day this spring, since the NCAA canceled winter and spring sports championships — a decision Utah State University followed up by canceling all spring athletic events — residents of Cache Valley may have spotted Aggie linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer out and about.

Not violating stay-at-home recommendations, mind you, but rather training; whether it be on a random patch of grass here, or another one there. Some days, the 6-foot, 225 pound middle linebacker can be seen working on his footwork, via fast-feet or high-to-low drills, or any number of exercises designed to increase foot speed. On other days, Meitzenheimer is running, with an eye on improving his speed and endurance.

When he isn’t out on “different patches of grass”, the Moreno Valley, California, native is inside with his 45-pound plate, “doing some curls, sit-ups, pretty much anything I can do around the house.”

That is what Meitzenheimer has been forced to resort to, with spring football canceled and USU facilities, including Maverik Stadium, the Laub Indoor Training Facility and the Icon Sports Performance Center, closed indefinitely.

“Basically it is home workouts,” he explained. “Just anything I can do.”

Meitzenheimer’s story isn’t unique. It is the new normal for athletes across the country in the wake of COVID-19-induced closures. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

“I mean, I’m upset about it,” he said.

Meitzenheimer is entering his final season at Utah State. As a junior, he started all 13 games and finished third on the team with 89 tackles, which included 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

After fellow linebacker David Woodward suffered a season-ending injury prior to an early November contest against rival BYU, Meitzenheimer became the de facto leader of the Aggies’ defense, though he may have been that already.

“Kevin was the vocal leader,” Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. “Kevin was the vocal guy out there, and he continued to do that.”

Meitzenheimer was ready to lead the way for the Aggies again this spring — he has high expectations for the team — and the loss of spring camp hurts.

“We are back to a new defense and changing over to a new offense,” he said. “I felt like we needed (spring camp) as a team so we could better ourselves for the future going into the next season.”

The future is why Meitzenheimer has kept up with his training, even amid the pandemic. His No. 1 goal, his only goal really, is for the Aggies to win a Mountain West Conference championship in his final season.

“I really want that now,” he said. “That is really my only goal right now. I’m training so I can do my job, do what I can do so we can get a championship.”

Utah State linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer tackles Boise State quarterback Jaylon Henderson (9) during the first half of a college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Logan, Utah.
Eli Lucero, Associated Press

That goal might already be in jeopardy. At this point, no one knows what the 2020-21 college football season will look like. Could it be shortened? Only conference games? Canceled altogether? Like the rest of us, Meitzenheimer is in dark.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what can happen in the next couple months. I don’t know what people are truly thinking. I have no clue.”

In whatever form the season does come, Meitzenheimer cannot wait. He continues to work — “We are still watching film from the practices that we were able to get done, making sure we keep up with the new playbook and installs and making sure we are keeping ourselves there mentally,” he said — all in preparation for the day he can run out onto Merlin Olsen Field again.

“That is one of the best feelings in the world,” he said. “There is nothing that compares to the feeling in the Mav. I can’t think of anything that compares to that. Just the adrenaline rush, the goosebumps, I can’t wait to get back to it.”