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Chris Meidt: From St. Olaf to the Redskins

Chris Meidt, second from left, said he "never had any intention of leaving" Northfield, Minn., where he coached at St. Olaf College, until Jim Zorn offered him a job helping with the Redskins' offense, including the quarterbacks.
Chris Meidt, second from left, said he "never had any intention of leaving" Northfield, Minn., where he coached at St. Olaf College, until Jim Zorn offered him a job helping with the Redskins' offense, including the quarterbacks. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 10, 2008

His friends and family say that Chris Meidt views the world through a filter colored by a knack for mathematics. That aptitude played into his choice to pursue a career as a football coach.

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After all, the game is played on a grid. What would be more appropriate for a spreadsheet junkie who uses terms such as "allocating resources" even when the topic of conversation is breaking down the 11 players that constitute an opposing defense?

"It all correlates to numbers," Meidt said at Redskins Park last week, where he is in his first season as an offensive assistant coach with Washington. "It correlates to time and space and location. That's just how I see things. It's space and time. Are people in the right place at the right time?"

It was understandably surreal one morning last February when Meidt had to take his guiding analytic principle and apply it to himself. When newly named Redskins Coach Jim Zorn asked his old friend Meidt to leave Division III St. Olaf College to join the Redskins, it forced a major decision.

Was Washington the right place? Was this the right time?

"We never had any intention of leaving," said Meidt, 38.

Taking the job would have been an easy choice for most of those in football's coaching ladder, where grueling hours and single-minded determination are the prerequisites for advancement. But Meidt found a more well-rounded experience at tiny St. Olaf, a liberal arts school located in the one-time dairy industry town of Northfield, Minn., where townspeople long ago adopted the motto of "Cows, Colleges, Contentment."

After years as an assistant coach, Meidt turned his first head coaching stint into a revival, breathing life into the football team at St. Olaf by building a high-powered offensive attack and posting a 40-20 record in six seasons.

His most enduring work, however, came away from the football field, where Meidt immersed himself in the community. Meidt, his wife, and three kids, were fixtures at Emmaus Baptist Church. Meidt served on several church committees, and for six years sang bass in a quartet.

"Chris really enjoyed the chance to take off his football cap once in awhile," said Rob Ryden, a fellow member of the group that came to be known as "The Four Coaches."

When a local youth baseball program needed volunteers, Meidt spent his offseason organizing the effort. When a local youth football league nearly folded because of a shortage of coaches, Meidt rearranged St. Olaf's Thursday football practices so he and nearly a dozen players could serve as volunteer coaches.

When his growing church needed to add another staff member, it was Meidt who reconfigured the budget to make the move affordable.


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