Wauseon (Ohio) offensive tackle Elliott Mealer has been to Ann Arbor many times in the past few weeks, but it was not until his official visit this past weekend that he was there primarily for football reasons. The experience of that Michigan visit was one he thoroughly enjoyed.
"I've been up there a lot of times, especially lately with surgery and Brock [Mealer's brother] being up there. But I haven't had that much fun, just in general, for awhile," said Mealer, whose father and girlfriend were killed Christmas Eve in the same accident in which his brother was injured. "I couldn't be more excited [for the future]. Each time I get back up there it gets me more excited. This weekend just couldn't have been any better."
The 6-6, 285-pound Mealer spent time at the University of Michigan hospital for surgery on his rotator cuff. During some of those visits he was able to get to know Michigan offensive line coach Greg Frey. This past weekend gave him another chance to build on that relationship as well as building relationships with the rest of the Michigan staff.
"I've been spending a lot of time with Coach Frey. He'd been really helpful," said Mealer. "He was there for my surgery at eight in the morning and he's been awesome.
"Other than him I talked to Coach [Bruce] Tall quite a bit. He's my recruiting coach. He's a really nice guy and has been great. Ironically I talked to Coach [Fred] Jackson quite a bit this weekend too. He's the running backs coach, so it was funny that I talked with him. In general, the whole coaching staff is very cool. I would have thought they were all o-line coaches because they were all so nice."
Mealer was one of several committed prospects taking his official visit to Michigan this past weekend. Joining him on the trip were several of the prospects in this class he has grown closest with including offensive linemen Dann O'Neill, Kurt Wermers and Rocko Khoury as well as New Jersey linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald who was there on an unofficial visit.
"Next to Dann O'Neill and Kevin Koger, I'm probably closest with J.B.," said Mealer. "Me, Dann, Rocko and Kurt are extremely close and our whole class is extremely close."
Offensive line is a position of great need in the class of 2008 because of graduations and departures from last year's roster. Any or all of the four offensive line commitments who were in Ann Arbor this past weekend could be called upon next fall to play pivotal roles in the offense.
"I know that the coaching staff does know that all four of us are willing to play if they need us. If they want to redshirt us, we're willing to do that too," said Mealer. "We're willing to work with these coaches, but I didn't talk with Coach Frey much about playing time or what position I'd be playing."
While Mealer's relationship with his fellow commitments is strong, the bond he felt with the players already on the team gave him a stronger sense of team unity.
"It was great to have the camaraderie with the guys in my class and the will-be sophomore class. The hosts could not have been any better and they were really welcoming and took care of us," said Mealer. "My host was Ryan VanBergen. He was really cool.
"Of all the guys I hung out most probably with Steve Schilling. I find him to be my type of guy. We just chilled out and talked to each other. He's not too crazy of a guy and I'm not too crazy of a guy.
"The upperclassmen made us feel like we were in their class and had been there for a year with them. They were very nice guys and were excited about us getting there. That welcoming feeling - not only from the coaches but more so from the players - that makes us feel that much better. Just seeing the dorm life and the way they live, it's family-like and that's why I committed to Michigan."
Mealer said he will be trying to arrive in Ann Arbor as soon as possible this summer to start on rehabilitation for his shoulder with Michigan athletic trainer Paul Schmidt.