Finding family through football: Senior overcomes adversity

Stock Chenault/Special to The Simpsonian

by Stock Chenault, Special to The Simpsonian

INDIANOLA, Iowa — When Braden Meints began to lose his hair during the second grade, his classmates tormented him for looking different. Once he found football to escape the bullying, he hasn’t lived a day without it.

“It was difficult being picked on as a kid,” Meints said.

His diagnosis of alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disorder that fights hair growth like a disease, created many social challenges for him. He remembers football as the one thing that gave him comfort in that time of his life.

“I didn’t really have that many friends, and I had a lot of anger that built up from that,” Meints said. “Football allowed me to release that anger in a healthy way.”

Meints felt like an outcast, but playing football made him feel special. He found a way to create a feeling of significance in his life both on and off the field.

Meints said he will never forget the first time he was asked to play football, and how that experience filled the void of his social troubles. He didn’t know anyone who could exactly relate to what he was feeling, so he embraced his appearance and claimed his identity on the football field.

When he looked back on his earliest years in football, he couldn’t help but smile.

“I always remember having a lot of fun. Even though football is still fun for me to this day, I think everyone that plays football can agree that playing as a kid will always be the best,” he said.

His favorite years of playing football is understandable since it allowed him to surpass the social barriers his condition created for him.

“You know, I have started to enjoy some of the benefits of my condition as I have gotten older,” Meints said. “I don’t have to buy shampoo or conditioner, just body wash. I just wish I had a beard,” he said with a laugh.

His humorous spirit makes it easier for him to handle the daily life of someone with the rarest form of alopecia.

I didn’t really have that many friends, and I had a lot of anger that built up from that. Football allowed me to release that anger in a healthy way.

— Braden Meints

Meints continued his passion for football throughout grade school, which influenced his decision on where he wanted to continue his education after high school. He eventually chose Simpson College, where he knows he’s found a home. Now in his senior year, Meints looks to leave a lasting legacy behind.

Arguably one of the most versatile players on the roster for Simpson, Braden has played running back, slot receiver, full-back, linebacker and punter. With a 6-foot-2-inch 230-pound frame, the coaching staff have the problem of not knowing what he is best at.

Whatever position he plays, he gives everything he has. Former teammate Eddie Perez is thankful to have played with him.

“He’s definitely someone this team is very lucky to have gotten,” Perez said.

Perez played alongside Braden at the running back position in the 2014-2015 seasons and has the upmost respect for the work Meints puts into his athletics.

“He always holds himself and others around him accountable for doing the right thing,” Perez said.

In Meints’ first two years at Simpson, he never felt that he found his role. It wasn’t until his junior year that he started to see just exactly how he was going to help the football team.

“I started to really find my niche once I permanently switched over to offense,” Meints said. “I knew week-in and week-out what my team expected of me, and that really helped me prepare for the games.”

Primarily used as a “J-back,” a mixture of a slot-receiver and full-back, he is a major part of what Simpson tries to accomplish on offense.

At times, Simpson’s offense can seem predictable since they rely on Meints’ blocking so often.

Senior Jo Corzine transferred to Simpson as a sophomore, and has gone to every home game since.

“Wherever Meints goes, the ball goes,” Corzine said. “Even though all of us in the stands, and everyone on the other side of the ball knows that we’re running behind him, we still have a lot of success.”

Meints has come a long way from the out-of-place kid first starting to lose his hair, and he’s found a home at Simpson.