He didn’t realize it at the time, but up to this point he’s lacked the joy he is accustomed to experiencing when playing this game he loves.
Not surprisingly, it’s showed in his performance on the field. In seven games, he has just 12 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
“I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t having fun,” he admitted after practice. “It’s as simple as that. I just need to make it fun again. It’s a game, and a game that I love. It’s easy to say that, but all of a sudden you get out there and I was putting pressure on myself that I shouldn’t have. I have talent that the good lord gave me. But how can I show it if I’m not having fun? So that’s what I did today, and I’m telling you, I had more fun at practice today than I’ve had in a long, long time. Today I had joy in my heart. I have joy in being a San Diego wide receiver. “
Meachem’s epiphany came over the weekend when he had the chance to meet up with some of his close friends, who gave him the cold, hard truth that he needed to start having fun again.
“I had a few friends in town, guys I consider as brothers, and all we talked about was having fun,” he said. “There are five of us and they are my best friends from back home, and they gave it to me straight. They saw how I was playing and it dawned on me. Some of it hurt to hear. You get chastised and criticized, but you know they’re telling the truth. So I was kind of getting mad, but then I knew that they are right. And that’s what I took out on the field with me today. I said a prayer and just enjoyed the moment and enjoyed the gift of being out there. There are a million people in the world that want to play this game, and today I got a chance to go play the game and have fun.”
Meachem missed last Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a hamstring injury but returned to practice fully today. He was initially frustrated by the injury, but with his newfound outlook, he realizes it gave him a new perspective.
“I felt blessed to play today and not have to watch,” he said. “Being a competitor, when you have to watch that’s the hardest thing in the world for you. But a lot of times, it’s the best thing in the world for you because you get to see things that you don’t really see playing in the game or practicing. I feel everything happens for a reason. God puts you in certain situations for any given reason, but it’s on you to figure out those reasons and figure out the signs. That’s what I’m doing.”
Whether it’s fair or not, when Meachem signed with the Chargers this past offseason, fans and the media alike pegged him as the replacement for the departed Vincent Jackson. Oddly enough, San Diego will face the former Bolt this upcoming Sunday in Tampa Bay. But Meachem isn’t putting any added pressure on himself to perform or match Jackson. He’s done playing that kind of game in his head. Instead, he’s zoning in on enjoying himself and making plays for the Chargers to come away with the win.
“What have I got to prove and what does he have to prove?” Meachem asked. “What both of us want to do at the end of the day is get a win. When I played against my old team, I wanted to win. And that’s how he’s feeling now. That’s just the nature of this game and the nature of this business. But this game isn’t about me or him, or me vs. him. It’s about the Chargers vs. the Bucs. I feel like the media try to make it more than what it is for us to press and put pressure on each other to try to do well. They may write that I came here to replace him or whatever the case may be, but we’re two different guys with two different talents and two different gifts. And he’s using his gift well right now, and I’m happy for him. My gift is coming. My dad told me when I was a young kid that my time will come, and that’s what I believe in my heart right now. My time will come when I do the things to help this team get a win.”
Meachem knows he’s disappointed out on the field so far. He’s disappointed himself, and he’s disappointed the fans. But he has a message for the Chargers supporters who are still rooting him on.
“I want them to sit back and enjoy this moment because it’s going to happen for me,” he said. “My time is coming, and when it does we can all celebrate together. When it comes, everybody will get to see it. The whole world will get to see the gift God gave me. And it will be special for me to share it with these fans who have stuck with me as I’ve gone through all this.”
The speedy wide receiver also spoke glowingly about Norv Turner, and how he wants to produce the way he’s capable of to reward his head coach’s faith in him.
“Our coach is a great coach,” said Meachem. “You don’t find coaches like him every day. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect before I got here. But I love playing for him. He’s a player’s coach. He demands respect, but at the same time he laughs and jokes with you and treats you as a man and as a player. So I want to go out there and have fun and do it for him too because he believes in me.”
Clearly, the Robert Meachem who spoke today is a different man than the Robert Meachem we spoke to last week. He’s taken a long hard look in the mirror and is confident in himself. He knows what he needs to do to get better and perform like the player he truly is.
And the answer isn’t complex at all.
It all comes down to playing hard and having fun. Period.