There was a lot going on at media day for the 102nd Rose Bowl Game. That tends to happen when the entire roster is sitting around tables in a banquet room.
Some players were taken aside to be interviewed. Some even checked out the photo booth, where they donned crazy props and posed in front of a green screen, while others sat idly at their tables, where they’d play around on their phones.
But Quenton Meeks made sure he put some of that hour to productive use. Even with the chaos going on around him, he sat with his back turned, iPad in hand, intently watching film of Iowa’s offense.
“I’m a big film guy,” Meeks said. “A lot of guys play with pure athleticism. I’m not one of those guys, I like to prepare to be great.”
“We were having fun this week but I took it kind of like, ‘Okay, I’m going to have my fun but I’m going to prepare for this game,’ because I knew it was the biggest game of my life and this team wanted it bad and I wasn’t going to let my teammates down,” Meeks added.
Once Friday came along, he certainly did not let his teammates down.
On Iowa’s second drive of the game, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard targeted junior receiver Matt VandeBerg on a quick out route, but Meeks was on VandeBerg’s hip the entire time — knowing exactly what play was coming, and where the throw would go.
“We were in a form of kind of a man-zone coverage,” he said. “I knew exactly what play they were going to run out of empty. They only run a handful of them so I kind of anticipated they were going to do that.”
“As soon as he ran a quick out I just squeezed to his hip. I was actually surprised he threw the ball. The sun was in my eye a little bit but I saw the little brown part and I was like, ‘that’s the ball right there.’”
All it took was for Meeks to jump the route once Beathard made his ill-advised throw, and then it was off to the races.
“I said I was going to get a pick and I imagined a pick-six too,” Meeks said. “I didn’t know when it was going to come.”
Meeks would complete his third pick of the season by running it back the full 66 yards to the end zone, putting Stanford up 21-0 with 4:07 left in the first quarter and effectively sealing the game for the Cardinal.
“Best feeling of my life, by far,” Meeks said. “A pick-six in that moment was just unbelievable.”
His preparation on and off the field has paid off all season. Since arriving to The Farm this year, Meeks has made an immediate impact, appearing in all 14 games of the season and seeing the most time of any freshman defender or freshman, period.
And part of the reason the team was in the Rose Bowl at all was because of Meeks: The freshman’s two picks in the second half of the Washington State game led to a combined 10 points off Stanford’s ensuing drives, including what would be the game-winning field goal from Conrad Ukropina.
Without those picks, Stanford would have likely dropped another conference game, come in third place in the Pac-12 North and ended up in the Sun Bowl.
“I’ve always said I was born to do this, I was born to play football,” Meeks said. “It’s just great coming in as a freshman, that was my mindset coming in here. I wanted to play right away and I just worked hard to get to this point and I’m just blessed to be here.”
Given that Meeks was a huge reason that Stanford was in the Rose Bowl in the first place, it was only fitting that Meeks would have the pick that, even while putting Iowa within a still-within-striking-distance 21 points, demoralized the Hawkeyes enough such that the game was essentially out of reach.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.