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Meador’s kids and the Hall

Dave Meador was lying on a beach in Pensacola, Fla., last summer when the thought suddenly hit him.

His father belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“It was an epiphany,” he says.

Eddie Meador, his father, was a ball-hawking free safety who intercepted 46 passes for the Los Angeles Rams from 1959 to 1970, a franchise record that still stands.

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A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Meador was one of three safeties named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1960s -- along with former St. Louis Cardinals great Larry Wilson and former USC and Green Bay Packers standout Willie Wood, both of whom are enshrined at Canton, Ohio.

“I probably was as good a ballplayer as some of the people that’s already in there,” the plain-spoken Meador says from his home in Natural Bridge, Va. “Maybe not, but I think that.”

Dave Meador, a high school English teacher and former football and baseball coach who lives in Russellville, Ark., hopes that the Hall of Fame selection committee will agree. Last fall, he and his three siblings asked their father, 71, whether he’d mind if they started a Hall of Fame campaign on his behalf.

With his blessing, they launched an impressive-looking website, edmeador21.com, which details their father’s credentials.

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Included are testimonials, one from ex-Rams defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, a Hall of Famer who says his former teammate not only was “outstanding in coverage and a fierce tackler” but also possessed “a remarkable nose for the football that allowed him to come up with big plays again and again.”

In Virginia, Meador says he’d given up on making the Hall years ago “because normally if you’re going to be selected, it’s within a certain period of time after you’re retired.”

He’d put the Hall out of his mind, he says, until his grown children, ages 37 to 50, approached him with their idea.

“I don’t know a whole lot about it, other than the fact that they believe I really need to be there,” he says of their lobbying efforts on his behalf. “They may be a little prejudiced, but it would be a tremendous honor for me, I know that.”

Calling his election “a longshot,” he notes, “The selection committee probably doesn’t even know who I am.”

Meador and his second wife, Annette, live on 10 acres north of Roanoke in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, the former Rams co-captain noting with pride, “I can look out my windows in the den and see the Blue Ridge Mountains and I can look out from my bedroom and see the Appalachian Mountains.”

Noting that the population of Natural Bridge is 992, he says with a laugh, “It’s a little bit different than L.A.”

He and his wife design and manufacture jewelry. Their company, The Gorgeous Horse, specializes in equestrian pieces, he says, “for people who own horses and go to horse shows.”

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Meador, who attends about 20 shows a year, recalls with great fondness playing for the Rams of the 1960s, especially the powerful late-'60s teams coached by George Allen.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get into the Super Bowl,” he says. “I don’t think there was a better defensive team in football.”

Playing behind the “Fearsome Foursome” of Olsen, Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy, he says, was “just a real pleasure” for a defensive back.

“Those guys put the pressure on those quarterbacks a lot of times,” he says. “That sure made it a lot easier.”

Listed at 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, Meador says he earlier was rejected as “too small” for major college football by then-Texas A&M; coach Bear Bryant, winding up instead at tiny Arkansas Tech.

He was a two-way star in college, rushing for 3,410 yards, and a seventh-round pick of the Rams in the 1959 draft.

“It was quite an experience,” he says of his relocation to Southern California a half-century ago. “At Arkansas Tech, if we had 2,000 people at a game, we had a big crowd. I came out to L.A. and the first NFL game I ever see, I played in the sucker.”

He made an immediate impact, then-Rams assistant Jack Faulkner telling a reporter that the fresh-faced rookie “looks like Mickey Rooney but hits like Jim Brown.”

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In 12 seasons, he sat out only one game because of injury, playing in 159 consecutive games through his first 11 1/2 seasons. He returned five interceptions for touchdowns.

But at this point, nearly 40 years after his final game, Meador faces long odds of reaching the Hall. While anyone can nominate a candidate simply by writing to the Hall of Fame, a seniors committee annually names only two nominees from the pre-1985 era to be considered along with 15 other finalists.

Finalists then must garner 80% of the vote from the 44-person board of selectors to be elected to the Hall.

Whether or not he makes it, however, Meador says he is overwhelmed by the dedication and generosity of his children -- Mike, Mark, Dave and Vicki.

“I don’t know what to say other than I’m super, super proud of them,” he says. “They’re super people, and if I do make it, it’s going to be them that did it more than anything else.”

Pausing, he adds, “Those are Hall of Fame kids, I tell you.”

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jerome.crowe@latimes.com


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