The leg injury to Navy tailback Eddie Meyers is more serious than first realized and there is doubt he will be able to play at Yale Saturday, Navy Coach George Welsh said yesterday.
Meyers, the third leading career rusher in Naval Academy football history, injured his right thigh against Eastern Kentucky two weeks ago and played only three series against Michigan Saturday, gaining 11 yards in eight carries.
In three games this season, Meyers has run for 168 yards, giving him 1,785 career yards. Only Cleveland Cooper with 2,582 yards and Joe Gattuso Jr. with 1,890, have more.
"It's a day-to-day thing," Welsh said. "I definitely want to use him against Yale, but if he can't play, he can't play.
"This is a very important game for us. We're at a crossroads and whatever we have to do to win, we'll do. I'm not saving anybody. If Eddie can play, he'll play, even if he's not 100 percent.
"Obviously a healthy Meyers is vital to our team," Welsh added, "but we have to be able to win without him."
Navy is 2-1, Yale is 2-0.
If Meyers doesn't play, the tailback assignment will go to freshman Napoleon McCallum. He led the Mids in rushing against Michigan with 66 yards and has gained 186 yards this season.
"McCallum did very well against Michigan," Welsh said. "There wasn't much running room, but whenever there was a crack he took it."
Meyers, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound senior from Pemberton, N.J., thought he would be running at full speed by now.
"The problem now is fluid in the knee joint," he said. "The Monday after it happened, the thigh was okay, but the knee wasn't."
Meyers suffered the injury when he didn't see an Eastern Kentucky tackler as he cut to the outside on a short run and was hit full force on the thigh.
"If I'd seen him, I would have put my shoulder down, but I lost sight of him and his helmet hit the inside of my right leg between the knee pad and the thigh pad," Meyers said.
Meyers practiced only two days last week and was held out of all contact work, but still started against Michigan. "It didn't feel good at all, though," he said. "I didn't play at all in the second half and iced it and whirlpooled it, but it was swollen and stiff Monday and I could hardly bend it. I have much more motion in it now than I did."
Even if he doesn't play Saturday, Meyers thinks he has a chance of passing Cooper's yardage total.
"The rushing record is still an attainable goal," Meyers said. "I would still have seven games to get 900 yards. If I'm at full strength and play well, I can do that. I'm still not giving up hope of playing Saturday, though. I've come too far to give up anything."
A high school linebacker, Meyers wasn't heavily recruited. He finally decided on the Naval Academy Prep School for a year and then went on to Annapolis.
He began as a fourth-string fullback "and just waited my turn."
Ironically, it was because of injuries to Mike Sherlock, Steve Callahan and Kevin Tolbert that Meyers was moved to tailback during his sophomore year.
The first time he got into a game he ran 15 yards off tackle. He hadn't been out of the Navy lineup until he was knocked out of the Eastern Kentucky game.
He gained 636 yards in the final four games that year (1979), averaging 6.1 yards a carry. He ended the year by setting an Army-Navy game record, carrying 42 times for 278 yards.
Last season he ran for 957 yards.
Until last season, Meyers said he had no aspirations of playing professional football. But that changed with his success.
"I had dreamed about it before, but I never really felt I could do it until last year," he said. "After my five-year tour, I'll pursue it."