Every year, it seems at least one small-school prospect takes full advantage of Senior Bowl week, proving they can compete with some of the best players college football has to offer down in Mobile, Alabama.
This year’s biggest winner in that category? Wisconsin-Whitewater offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz.
The last time we saw a D-III offensive linemen look that good at the Senior Bowl was in 2015 when Hobart’s Ali Marpet looked the part. Marpet improved his draft stock so much throughout the process that he went on to get drafted in the second round. The same meteoric rise isn’t out of the question for Meinerz.
A punishing blocker who proved himself against top pass rushers, Meinerz recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience at the Senior Bowl, how he answers the “small-school” criticism, his training regimen in Canada, his infamous crop-top look, and what kind of impact he’ll have at the next level.
JM: I want to start at the beginning. What was life like growing up in Hartford, Wisconsin?
QM: It wasn’t too bad. We lived in a very nice house. It was close to my high school. I competed in pretty much every sport that I could. I always played football. I also wrestled and ran track. Life was normal. I went to school every day and kept up with those three sports. I had a nice life growing up in Hartford, Wisconsin.
JM: I always enjoy hearing that an offensive lineman participated in wrestling growing up. How do you think it made you a better O-lineman?
QM: It definitely helped me develop as an offensive lineman. To this day, I would tell every high school football player to also participate in wrestling. Just do it. It will help you so much, especially if you’re a heavyweight. You learn so much about hand fighting and body positioning. All of those things will help you on the football field.
JM: There’s no doubt about it. By now, everyone has seen your awesome training videos up in Canada. I’m Canadian, so I love it. Tell us about that.
QM: I noticed the caller ID said Ontario. Hold on. Before we continue, let me ask you a question. Where in Ontario are you from?
JM: I’m in Toronto.
QM: When I go to the islands, I go up through the International Falls in Minnesota into Dryden, Ontario. It gets me up to Hector Lake in Kenora, Ontario, Canada. These are really small towns. I’m not sure if you’d be familiar with these areas or not.
JM: I feel like you may be more Canadian than I am (laughs). That’s the real Canada right there. I’ve never heard of any of those places. I’m a big city kid. Toronto, people, big population.
QM: Okay, that makes sense (laughs). I’ve had so many awesome experiences up there. It’s good to get away from the madness of life once in a while. I do a lot of fishing while I’m up there. I’ll spend the entire day outside. There’s something special about nature up there. We’ll spend all day on the boat. I don’t know what it is, I just love it. It’s a great experience. I have so many fond memories of my time up there with my uncle Tim.
With the workouts, I was just trying to stay in shape as much as possible. I would go up there after the season and start to get in shape all the way through August until it was time to roll again. That’s when I would come back. I would spend the entire summer in Ontario.
JM: That’s great. Is that something you plan to continue doing in the future?
QM: I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. I probably won’t but you never know. I’ll think about it more once I figure out my situation. It’ll probably depend on the schedule of an NFL career and where I end up playing geographically. That’s at the bottom of the list of things I’m worrying about right now (laughs). I’ll figure that out at some point.
JM: That’s fair. Your name hasn’t stopped buzzing since the Senior Bowl. I’m curious, is your phone just blowing up all the time?
QM: It was initially, yeah. It’s starting to slow down a bit now. A lot of people were trying to reach out to me. It was tough to manage at times. During my time at the Senior Bowl, I just muted everything on my phone. I only spoke with the people I needed to speak with that week—my agent, my girlfriend, and my dad (laughs). Those are the only three people I NEED to talk to. Everyone else needed to wait because I was really busy.
JM: That’s fair. I’m not sure anyone improved their draft stock in Mobile more than you did. What was your overall experience like out there?
QM: I had a lot of fun. I think what you said is true, nobody improved their draft stock like I did. Before the Senior Bowl, it looked like I was going undrafted (laughs). That was the thought. Nobody really knew who I was during the season. We didn’t play in 2020.
I had a blast at the Senior Bowl. My ultimate takeaway was that I enjoyed every moment. It was busy and we had some stressful moments, but there was also a lot of fun, hard work. At the end of the day, I would do it again. It was awesome.
JM: It goes without saying, but how big was it for you as a D-III prospect to go down there and prove that you belong among the best?
QM: It was huge. Especially when you take how strange this year has been into account. I didn’t have a football season in 2020. Some of the other college all-star games were canceled. We didn’t have an East-West Shrine Game this year. The NFLPA game didn’t happen. I feel for all the prospects that missed out on those opportunities.
Those are the games someone like me usually has to take advantage of. It gives us a chance to get in front of these scouts and prove that we can handle playing against better competition.
The fact that I was able to get into the Senior Bowl was huge. It gave me that opportunity that so many other small school prospects didn’t get this year. I just wanted to get in front of all 32 teams and prove to them that I could play at the next level.
JM: I’m glad that you brought that up because I was going to ask about that. Throughout this process, teams are going to ask you about the lack of competition playing D-III. How do you plan to respond?
QM: I think that was a huge question mark for me. It was definitely going to be held against me throughout this process. You said it. It’s an understandable question. At this point though, I think I’ve put that to bed. I did what I needed to do at the Senior Bowl to answer that question. I’ve thoroughly answered that question already.
JM: I agree with you. You played every position along the interior in Mobile. We saw you work at both center and guard. Did you get a feel for which position the NFL sees you playing going forward?
QM: I really enjoyed playing center at the Senior Bowl, but I think my best fit is at guard. Through my meetings, I got the feeling that regardless of which position I play, you have to play all three positions as an interior player.
It doesn’t matter which one you start at. That’s just how it is. I’ll start at one of the three positions and perfect my craft there. That’s the hope. But it’s so important for me to be able to play every position across the interior.
JM: That makes sense. Is there a scheme that you’re most comfortable playing in?
QM: In terms of a scheme that best fits my style of play, a lot of my film at Wisconsin-Whitewater is of me running a power scheme. We ran a lot of power there. I also have good lateral quickness. So whether it’s a power or zone scheme for me at the next level, I think my skill set fits both schemes.
JM: Who were some of your favorite defensive linemen to practice against at the Senior Bowl?
QM: On the first day, I had a lot of fun with Levi Onwuzurike from Washington. Throughout the rest of the week, I had some great battles with Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA.
JM: Those are two great prospects. Did you feel like you had a great connection with any of the teams in particular during your meetings?
QM: I wouldn’t say any teams in particular, no. They were quick meetings. We’re talking about 15-minute interviews. They were quick. It was like going from station to station. It was a four-and-a-half-hour process. I was jumping around from table to table. We didn’t have any deep conversations.
JM: That’s fair. Because this path of yours has been so unique, what were teams most interested in asking you about as you went from team to team? Did the same question keep popping up time and time again?
QM: I was consistently asked about my history of playing center. That was a big question. You and I touched on that a little bit. There was a lot of buzz about how well I played at center throughout the week.
It started as a rumor that I had never played center before. A lot of the teams had a hard time believing that (laughs). But it’s true. I’ve never played a game of football at center. I never had any real reps at the position prior to the Senior Bowl. I got that question a lot.
JM: That’s hilarious. A lot of people in the draft community are saying that your performance at the Senior Bowl was significantly better than what you put on tape in 2019. You’ve taken a big step forward. That’s the general feel. How did you improve so many aspects of your game in a year’s time?
QM: I was extremely creative with what I was able to do. Initially when the lockdown started, I was working out in the basement. That’s when I taught myself how to play the center position. I was messing around in the backyard. I was snapping the ball into garbage cans.
I started a YouTube channel so I could record myself and upload the videos. The sole purpose of that was so that I could watch them myself (laughs). A big part of getting better is studying film.
As I was running through certain drills, something like taking a pass set right or left, inside zone steps right or left, whatever I was doing, I was simulating the actual steps that I would take in a game.
I would record me snapping the ball before taking the steps I mentioned because I understand that you can’t have bad snaps or false steps in the NFL. It has to be perfect every single time because timing is everything at the next level. I was really just trying to perfect that.
Once gyms started opening up, I went all in and worked my butt off. I was working out at a gym in Waukesha, Wisconsin called NX Level with a trainer named Brad Arnett.
JM: You’ve taken such big steps forward. It’s clear that you’ve worked really hard. I have to say, I absolutely loved the jersey look at the Senior Bowl. You were rocking the crop top, showing off the belly. I hope you continue that at the next level.
QM: The jersey thing is something that I’ve always done at practice (laughs). I’ve been doing it since high school. I always tuck my jersey in at practice. We’re at the Senior Bowl but hey, it’s practice (laughs). I was finally at practice again after a year off. I went into practice mode. That’s why I did it. It was warm out there.
I pulled the jersey up and let my belly breathe. I would never do it in a game. It’s not a proper uniform. That’s how I usually get comfortable during practice.
JM: That’s fantastic. Is there an NFL quarterback you’d love to block for?
QM: I would choose Tom Brady. He’s a huge inspiration for me. I’ve read and learned about his story of going through the football process. I would love to block for Tom Brady.
JM: We’ve talked a lot of football tonight. I want to get into one of your off-field hobbies before I let you go. You enjoy playing video games. Do you have a favorite game to play?
QM: The game that I play all the time is called League of Legends. I play that on the computer. I play it with my siblings. We’ll hop on the game and it gives us a chance to catch up while playing a game that we all enjoy.
JM: I can’t say I’ve heard of it. What’s it about?
QM: It’s a five-on-five game. It’s not a first-person game. I believe they refer to the genre as MOBA. It’s like a multiplayer online battle arena game. It’s a game that promotes teamwork. There are three different lanes. It’s tough to describe beyond that. It’s not like any other game. It’s a very specific genre.
JM: This has been terrific. I’ve really appreciated your time tonight, Quinn. I feel like you allowed me to tell the full scope of your draft story and I’m very thankful for that. In closing, what kind of impact is Quinn Meinerz going to make at the next level?
QM: I’m feeling very confident right now. I’m moving in the right direction. I’m trying to make my own path. You look at what Ben Bartch and Ali Marpet were able to do as small school O-linemen… I’m following that path and riding the small school wave.
I want to be a small school player that is great in the NFL.