It didn't take Pat Meyer long to decide which path he wanted to follow in chasing his post-college dreams.
In fact, all it took was a short stint as an employee for WCI Steel in Warren to know that he preferred a life that included more football and less (as in no) steel products.
"I found out what real work is all about," said Meyer, a 1990 graduate of Girard High School.
Meyer, who was an offensive lineman for the Indians, left WCI after eight months to become a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where he was a four-year letterman. That move set off a string of advancements that has led Meyer to the Chicago Bears, who hired him recently as assistant offensive line coach.
From molding steel to molding the futures of some of the best football players in the world. It's a move that Meyer made with great anticipation and appreciation to Bears coach Marc Trestman, who hired him last year as an offensive line coach for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
"When this came up, I jumped on it," Meyer said. "It's not to say that I always wanted to be in the NFL. I always wanted to coach and be around kids and help them on and off the field. It's a great opportunity to get to do it in the NFL."
Advancing up the coaching ranks is a combination of talent and personal associations. Meyer first met Trestman in 2005, when Meyer was the strength coach at North Carolina State and Trestman was the offensive coordinator. Trestman left after the 2006 season to coach the Alouettes, which led to Meyer's move north of the border last year.
Trestman has a history of coaching on the college and NFL levels dating back to 1981, when he coached quarterbacks at the University of Miami (Fla.). One of his pupils was soon-to-be Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
The two joined forces again in Cleveland in 1988-89 when Trestman was the Browns quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and Kosar was in the process of leading the way to three AFC Championship games. Meyer has discovered what Kosar is always quick to point out - Trestman has a brilliant offensive mind.
"He's very detailed," Meyer said of Trestman. "He's probably as detailed as anyone I've ever been around. He applies attention to every detail and makes sure everyone is on the same page. He's great with players. He's able to command the room and show them a vision and this is what we want to do and getting guys to buy in. He studies the science of the game, and that's what sets him apart from other people I've been around."
Making the move to the NFL is a life-changing event for Meyer. Although he has one season of pro experience in the CFL, he's just a year removed from being the offensive coordinator at Colorado State.
"To be honest, my biggest concern (going from college to the CFL) was would it be different than how I handled college kids," said Meyer, a four-year letterman and an all-state selection at Girard. "It's not. If you can earn their trust and if you can improve their skills, they'll love you for it.
"They're getting paid. It's their job. If you can show them that this guy can help you and help your career last longer, they're going to buy in and do it. It's a people business and handling guys the right way and showing them not only football things. It's about handling guys and making them trust you."
Meyer and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who left the New Orleans Saints to join the Bears, face a challenge in upgrading the performance of the line. Chicago quarterbacks were sacked 44 times last season, with starter Jay Cutler going down 38 times.
"We're putting the staff together and getting to know each other," Meyer said. "We're doing more player evaluations right now. We have the combine and the draft coming up and a playbook to put together. There's a bunch of work to do. It's fun to do this stuff and see how it's built from the ground up."
Meyer had a rookie free-agent tryout with the Arizona Cardinals in 1995. He played one season with the Arizona Stampede of the Arena Football League in 1996. Next came the WCI job before he got back into something he truly loves.
"This is a great opportunity to get my foot in the door of the NFL," he said.
One of the biggest challenges in the move to Chicago is uprooting his wife Erin and daughters Christina, Emma and Sophia.
"That will be the hard thing," Meyer said. "You have to have a wife that's willing to do it, and you have to get the kids to buy into it."
Getting an opportunity to coach for the Chicago Bears had to be an easy sell.