Dan Meers, who has portrayed Kansas City Chiefs mascot KC Wolf for 28 seasons, shared his story at the 2018 Mark Twain Area FCA Banquet.
Dan Meers is best known by his famous alter ego.
Meers has played the role of KC Wolf of the Kansas City Chiefs for 28 seasons, becoming one of the most respected mascots in the National Football League.
But his career appeared to come crashing down Nov. 23, 2013.
Meers bungee jumped from the lights at Arrowhead Stadium as part of a planned stunt. He was practicing a grand entrance he hoped to wow the crowd with before the Chiefs next home game.
“I will always, always, always remember that day because on that day I literally came within inches from losing my life,” Meers said.
There was too much slack in the line Meers entrusted to keep himself safe.
Instead of falling 20 feet and being pulled back up into the air, the lifelong entertainer dropped 75 feet and slammed into seats in the upper deck.
“I hit the seats so hard that I knocked two of the seats out of the concrete, so if you ever go to Arrowhead and swing by Section 324, Row 35, Seats 22 and 23, you'll notice those seats are a little newer than the other seats in the section,” Meers said.
His body went into shock, shaking to his core, as he was rushed in the back of an ambulance to the hospital.
The incident broke seven ribs, collapsed his left lung, shattered his tail bone, cracked his sacrum, left a big gash on the back of his left leg that required stitches, and broke his T12 vertebrae.
Meers remained in the hospital for nine days and underwent physical therapy for the next six months.
Despite all this, Meers puts the tragedy into perspective.
He shared his story at the Mark Twain Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes 2018 Banquet on Wednesday night on the campus of Hannibal-LaGrange University.
“I can look back on this, and trust me, I have thought about this so many times over the past four years: The fact that I'm still here and still can stand up and share my story, it makes me really, really grateful,” he said.
Career behind the mask
Meers began his career in the mascot business while pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism and communications at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
His first appearances were as Truman the Tiger, the official mascot of the state's flagship university.
Meers was chosen as the No. 1 college mascot in the country at the 1989 National Collegiate Mascot Championships, success that led to offers to continue in the same line of work for professional sports franchises.
“I was Truman the Tiger for four years, and then I graduated, which made my mom and dad real happy,” Meers recalled. “They said, 'Good job, son,' now you've got to get a job. I went out and got my first job in professional baseball wearing a bird outfit for the St. Louis Cardinals."
After a short stint in St. Louis, Meers was approached about trading in his bird feathers to become KC Wolf.
He has remained in that role ever since.
He was the first NFL mascot inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I know what you're all thinking,” Meer told the crowd at the banquet Wednesday. “Twenty-eight years, that's a long time to avoid a real job. But I love what I do. I get paid to act goofy. I used to get in trouble for that in school. Now I get a paycheck.”
The occupation of being KC Wolf has provided Meers a way to pay the bills as he and his wife, Cam, have raised three children in the Kansas City area.
The entertainer spent more time Wednesday, however, talking about his preoccupation.
“I once read, 'If you ask a man his occupation, you're going to find out how he pays his bills,” he explained. “But if you ask a man his preoccupation, then you'll discover the passion of his life.' What I'm truly passionate about in this life are three things: my faith, my family and using my life to make an impact in the world that I live in.”
Meers, 51, compared the life of each person at the banquet to a coin.
He presented a challenge to invest in relationships each day rather than living selfishly.
“You can spend life any way you wish, but you're only going to get to spend it one time, so spend it wisely,” he said. “Choices you make each day, big choices and the small ones, they add up over time. And at the end of your life when you look back at your life story, it's going to be determined by those choices you made along the way.
“Every one of us in this room right now, we're all writing a life story. Every day is just one more sentence. You get to decide each and every day whether your sentence is going to end with a period, question mark or exclamation point.”
There is never a day that passes that Meers isn't reminded of his fall at Arrowhead Stadium four years ago.
His body isn't as spry as it used to be.
But that reality didn't stop him from returning to his role as KC Wolf for the 2014 season, just a year removed from one of the worst days of his life. In addition to game days, he makes more than 300 annual appearances for the Chiefs.
“I do not believe that I am lucky to be alive,” he said. “I do believe I'm blessed. There are no such thing as accidents. They're all just incidents in God's perfect plan."
Meers mentioned his down time while on the path to recovery provided the chance to stop and think about the most important things in his life.
“My mom used to always say this: The most important things in life are not things, the most important things in life are relationships,” he said. “When I spent nine days in that hospital bed, not once did I think about how big my house was, how nice my car was, whether I had the latest smartphone or the latest fashionable clothes.
“I was reminded over and over and over again that the most meaningful things in my life are my faith, my family and my friends.”
Every day, Meers said he faces a decision.
“When I get out of bed in the morning, I can choose to rise and shine, or I can choose to rise and whine,” he said. “I do not want to be a whiner. Whiners do not make a positive impact in this world. A life spent selfishly is wasted, but a life that's invested in influencing and impacting other people, that right there is going to bear fruit for an eternity.”
Guided by faith
Meers is not afraid to share his Christian faith, nor does he shy from explaining the impact FCA had on his upbringing.
He said he was excited to speak at the banquet because the impact he sees FCA making for the current generation of student-athletes and coaches.
This includes Michael Ryan, an offensive lineman on the state champion Monroe City football team. Ryan shared a 10-minute testimony to kick off the night.
Alex Brandenburg, head coach of the Mark Twain girls basketball team, followed Ryan and shared about FCA experiences he has had to an audience that filled 34 sponsored tables at Mabee Sports Complex.
Ryan and Brandenburg spoke specifically about the Mark Twain chapter, which includes about 20 schools in Northeast Missouri. The chapter sponsors leadership clinics, coaches marriage retreats and regular meetings facilitated by campus coaches.
Meers echoed their stories.
He detailed an FCA retreat his senior year of high school that was a turning point in his life.
“Even though I had grown up in the church, that was when I came to realize I was a sinner and I needed a savior,” Meers said. “Jesus wasn't just about religion but about a relationship. I made a commitment and asked the Lord to forgive my sins, come into my life, change me and begin to make me into the man He wanted me to be.
“The joy that is in my life, it does not come from being the mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs,” Meers said. “It comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ. He's the one who puts a smile on my face each and every morning.”
Anyone interested in supporting FCA can send a check, made out to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to Mark Twain Area FCA, 211 Westview St., Palmyra, MO 63461. Any questions can be directed to Joe Brandenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meers published a book in 2014 entitled Wolves Can't Fly that chronicles his career and lessons learned.