Seven of the best high school football players in Kansas have been named finalists of the sixth annual Get Busy Livin’ – Kpreps Player of the Year of the Award, which was created in honor of former Pittsburg High quarterback Dylan Meier.
The 2016 award finalists are Mill Valley’s Joel Donn, Osborne’s Cullen Grabast, Pittsburg’s Elijah Harris, KC Turner’s Jordan Martin, Fredonia’s Isaac McPherson, Frontenac’s Brandon Mlekus and Shawnee Mission North’s Will Schneider.
The award is in honor of Dylan Meier, a former All-State quarterback at Pittsburg High School and starter at Kansas State University, who died during a hiking accident in 2010 at the age of 26. The annual recipient is a Kansas high school senior who not only has shown excellence on the field but also someone who has demonstrated the values that Dylan embodied, such as adventure, fitness, curiosity and a daily zest for life experiences. Past award winners include Rossville’s Tucker Horak, Bishop Carroll’s Denzel Goolsby, Shawnee Mission West’s Austin Chambers, Lawrence’s Brad Strauss and Madison’s Kole Schankie.
Players from around the state were nominated for this year’s award. The GBL committee then narrowed the list of candidates to seven finalists.
Here is a look at each of the finalists’ accomplishments on and off the field.
2016 Kpreps – Get Busy Livin’ Player of the Year Award Finalists
JOEL DONN – DB, MILL VALLEY
A Class 5A All-State defensive back, Donn registered 195 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles for the Jaguars. He helped Mill Valley to consecutive state championships in 2015 and 2016.
Donn also participated in the Peers in Learning Program, where he assisted special needs students throughout the school day. In addition, he did 60 hours of community service by tutoring and volunteering for Veteran Affairs and the Special Olympics.
“I was really honored and proud to show my parents that I was up for the award,” Donn said. “As far as things that I’ve done that have reminded me of Dylan is that I went rock climbing in Missouri and Arkansas, I swam with dolphins in the Bahamas. I fed sharks in the Bahamas as well. I learned to surf in Hawaii.”
CULLEN GRABAST – RB/DB, OSBORNE
He led Osborne to an undefeated state championship, rushing for 1,608 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also caught two touchdown passes and threw for eight touchdown passes after the team’s quarterback was injured. On defense, Grabast recorded 49 tackles and seven interceptions. He has signed to compete in football and track and field at McPherson College.
Off the field, he has been a member of the Sunflower 4-H Club for 10 years. He held various offices, including vice president and Osborne County Extension Council representative. Grabast has mentored younger members as a junior leader. In addition, he is a member of the Grace Brethren Church and has participated in the church youth group. He’s been a member of KAYS and served on the board for two years. Other activities include being a volunteer in the Little Friends and Trick or Treat for Cancer programs, as wells as serving as the Osborne High School Student Council treasurer. He is a member of the National Honor Society and has been on the high honor roll every semester.
“I think it would be a great honor,” Grabast said. “I’d like to take some trips and maybe take some classes overseas.”
ELIJAH HARRIS – WR/DB, PITTSBURG
A Class 5A All-State defensive back Harris recorded 20 tackles and three interceptions as a senior. He also caught 28 passes for 695 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s committed to play football at Pittsburg State University.
Harris is a member of the National Honor Society and has served as a Dragon Mentor, a tutor, a Link Crew member and was named the Rotary Student of the Month.
“It means a lot,” Harris said of being a finalist for the award. “I knew Dylan. He was one of my physical education teachers when I was in the fifth grade. It’s pretty cool being honored as a nominee for the award, knowing he was such a great guy.”
JORDAN MARTIN – WR, KC TURNER
A Class 5A All-State wide receiver, Martin caught 47 passes for 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns. In addition, he rushed for 437 yards and four touchdowns on only 41 carries. He was the Nathan Stiles Inspirational Award recipient and a semi-finalist of the Otis Taylor Award given to the top wide receiver in the Kansas City Metro.
Born deaf, Martin uses an implant to hear. However, he can’t hear during games as the device shuts down when it becomes wet with perspiration. As a student with special needs, he has served as a mentor and role model for younger students with special needs. He spends time in the Life Skills classroom, helping other students.
“On the field, we have hand signals that we used,” Martin said. “I can also read lips pretty good, so that helped a lot. I always had to be right in front of the coach’s face all the time and pay attention all the time.”
ISAAC MCPHERSON – RB, FREDONIA
A Class 3A All-State running back, McPherson rushed for 2,021 yards and 27 touchdowns. He is committed to play at Benedictine College.
McPherson is involved in the FCA, the Wednesday Youth Group and has participated in high school plays.
“I’m going to encourage everybody (to Get Busy Livin’) just by the way I live my life on and off the field,” he said. “I want to lead by example.”
BRANDON MLEKUS – QB, FRONTENAC
An All-State quarterback in Class 4A Division II, Mlekus completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,194 yards and 16 touchdowns. A dual threat, he rushed for 1,211 yards and 16 touchdowns. He signed to play football at Pittsburg State University.
In addition to excelling on the field, Mlekus is ranked No. 1 in his class with a 4.0 grade-point average, and he earned a 29 on his ACT. He is involved in youth groups, church activities, charity fundraising, student leadership, school organizations. Mlekus also has helped with Special Olympics, served as a tutor, assisted the elderly and has helped the homeless. He is a member of the National Honor Society.
“I always want to do something that makes the world a better place and try not to waste a single day,” Mlekus said. “I want to try and be happy every day and help with the community.”
WILL SCHNEIDER – QB, SHAWNEE MISSION NORTH
A four-year starter at quarterback, Schneider became the state’s record holder for career passing yards with 8,901. As a senior, he passed for 3,035 yards with 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He was a finalist for the Simone Award as the Kansas City Metro’s top player. He’s committed to play at William Jewell.
Schneider is a member of the student council and the school’s theater department. In both groups, he participates in various charity and youth-focused activities throughout the school year. He also helps coach his younger brother’s youth football team.
“It’s definitely a huge honor,” Schneider said. “After I started reading about Dylan Meier and everything he did in his life, I’m just really honored to even be up for this award. His life was really meaningful and he definitely embodied that Get Busy Livin’ attitude. I’m excited and blessed to even be in the conversation for this award.”
ABOUT DYLAN MEIER & THE GET BUSY LIVIN’ FOUNDATION
Dylan Meier, a 2002 graduate of Pittsburg High School, was a two-time All-State quarterback for the Purple Dragons. He continued his football career at Kansas State University and started 11 games from 2004-06 as the Wildcats’ signal caller.
On April 19, 2010, Meier died at the age of 26 in an accident while hiking with family in Arkansas.
In addition to his time in Kansas, Dylan played professional football in Germany and Italy, served as a bodyguard for Italian fashion models, worked in a vineyard overseas, ran with the bulls in Spain and went skydiving in the Alps. His next plans included coaching football in Europe, teaching English in Korea and possibly a return to Kansas State as a graduate assistant.
“He had a real zest for life,” Merle Clark, Dylan’s high school coach and family friend said days after the accident. “He lived a lot in his 26 years.”
That zest for life is the basis of the Get Busy Livin’ Foundation that was established in Dylan’s honor. The mission is to provide support for individuals and groups that embody the values that Dylan pursued: adventure, fitness, curiosity, generosity and a daily zest for life experiences.
The GBL Foundation is determined to break down the boundaries that keep people from living life to the fullest, whether those boundaries are social, economic or imaginary.
GBL uses donations to promote these values in the following ways: student/athletic scholarships, sport camp sponsorships, student travel abroad scholarships, community service needs and other activities that inspire and build character.
For more information, please visit http://getbusylivin.org.