CEDAR FALLS — As Mark Farley made his way to the screening area at Livingston Aviation Friday, he turned a corner and saw a familiar face.
Farley’s first reaction was not to say hello.
“You’re playing tomorrow, right?” Farley joked with Northern Iowa football Hall of Famer and retired 14-year NFL center Brad Meester, who along with his wife Jamie joined the Panthers for this weekend’s trip north to Fargo, N.D., where UNI tangled with second-ranked North Dakota State Saturday.
After wrapping up his career in 2013, Meester and his family, including six girls ages 4 to 15, moved back to Iowa 2 1/2 years ago and live near Mount Vernon on an acreage.
The Parkersburg native said he is enjoying retirement following the Panthers, driving his kids to their many activities, fixing vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles and when time allows, gator hunting.
“Retirement definitely has been good,” Meester said. “When I played, it is not gone all the time but gone on the weekends, always at work practicing and stuff so I was missing my kids’ stuff.
“Now I get to go to all my kids’ things, different sports, activities at school, stuff I didn’t get to do before ...”
Meester also enjoys restoring a motorcycle or working on his family’s old Oliver tractor that his dad used on their farm in Parkersburg.
“I knew toward the end of my career, I knew it was coming and it was about to be done. A lot of guys after they are done playing struggle to figure out what they are going to do,” Meester said. “They have played for so long, what is the next step? So I knew I had to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to just sit around.
“I love motorcycles. I love riding bikes, and my entire life I loved fixing things. Whether it was my car or anything else, I just love taking something broken and fixing it.”
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So while Meester was closing out his career in Jacksonville, he decided he wanted to learn how to fix motorcycles. Luckily for Meester, there was a motorcycle school in Daytona, which was approximately an hour from his house in Jacksonville.
“We will see where it goes, whether it becomes a full-time shop at some point, I don’t know. I just enjoy doing it,” Meester added.
Meester, an avid deer hunter, picked up another hobby during his years in Jacksonville — gator hunting. The head and torso of his first harvested gator is now stuffed and hangs on the wall in his home office.
“A couple of years ago a friend of mine said you have to come down and try this, you will love it,” Meester smiled. “I went and obviously it is fun, but it is such a rush. There is something about it ... when you’re in the middle of the night and all you see are eyes ... it could be a 3-footer, it could be a 12-footer. It is the rush.”
Meester said he took this year’s gator season off, but plans on doing it again next year, even after a close call the last time he went gator hunting.
“I had actually killed my 11 1/2-footer and we had gotten it into the boat,” Meester related. “When you get tags, you get two tags. My buddy was going to use the other tag. We come across a 10-, 11-foot gator and we chase it for a while and it gets away from us.
“So, we stop the boat so we can get everything settled back in. I go to get in my seat in the airboat and I slipped and fell into the water, right after we chased this gator and lost him. As quick as I hit the water, I was back in the boat. It was like I hadn’t even touched the water.”
Meester also follows the current Panther team.
“We were excited about going to this game,” Meester said. “I traveled to games for so long as a player, I think it is going to be awesome to be on this end of it.”