Former Gamecock All-American infielder Drew Meyer never had a doubt that he would earn his degree from South Carolina. After a nine year professional baseball career, he came back to school in 2011 through the Carolina Degree Completion Program, earned straight A’s over the next year and a half and discovered a professional network of fellow Gamecocks that helped him start his new life after athletics.
“I’d tell any athlete who didn’t graduate, do everything you can to finish your degree and be proud of it,” Meyer said. “You have to have your degree to be successful out there in the business world. It’s a sense of pride and accomplishment for me. It was something special to walk across that stage even though it was years later. It doesn’t matter when you get it done.”
The Carolina Degree Completion Program is part of the Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise and is for student-athletes who left the university in good academic standing to pursue a professional career, or did not complete their degree due to personal circumstances. The program allows those former student-athletes to apply to be readmitted to the university and come back to campus to finish their degree.
“There are a lot of people out there who may not have the opportunity that we have at South Carolina,” Meyer said. “The university and the people there are there to help us. It’s important to them. They want every student-athlete to graduate.”
The Charleston native is currently working for Federated Insurance in the Simpsonville and Greenville, S.C., area. Before he found success in the business world, Meyer saw plenty of success on the baseball field, helping the Gamecocks win SEC Championships in 2000 and 2002. The 2002 team also reached the championship game of the College World Series. He earned All-SEC honors twice and earned second-team All-America honors in 2002. After three seasons with the Gamecocks, he was drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Texas Rangers.
I felt that getting my degree would play a big part of finding those opportunities in the future in the business world. It was important to me to finish it for a sense of pride, but I also needed it to do what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Meyer returned to South Carolina in 2011 to finish his course work and also served as a student assistant for the baseball program during the 2012 season. Meyer knew he couldn’t play baseball forever, and he saw other former professional baseball players without degrees get into careers that didn’t have the future he would like to have for his family.
“Before I even got to college, I had an opportunity to turn professional coming out of high school,” Meyer said. “There was just always something for me that wanted to be a college graduate, especially at the University of South Carolina. That’s always been a goal and a dream of mine. I always had a passion for business, and I felt that getting my degree would play a big part of finding those opportunities in the future in the business world. It was important to me to finish it for a sense of pride, but I also needed it to do what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Meyer said that even though he was a decade older than most of his classmates when he returned to school, he didn’t have difficulty adjusting to life as a student again. He dedicated himself to being an all-star in the classroom.
“Getting used to studying for tests was a little bit of a challenge, but I’ve always been very competitive so that was something I thrived on,” Meyer said. “When I was in school playing baseball, my focus was on baseball. I wanted to win games and put myself in a position to be taken high in the draft. Looking back, I wish I had done it differently, but when I came back, I told myself that I’m going to try to get A’s in my classes. I ended up getting two A’s that first summer, and from then on I told myself that anything less than that is unacceptable.”
Meyer needed 15 classes to graduate, and aced them all.
“I wanted to challenge myself,” Meyer said. “I was proud of that. I couldn’t use the excuse of having baseball and weights and all those other things. I didn’t have any other outside distractions either. My wife and I were living in a house and didn’t have too much else going on other than helping out the team a little bit and trying to get my studies done.”
While his own hard work was among the keys to that success, Meyer felt like he had access to all of the tools necessary to help him finish what he had started in school.
“I came back and the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center) was done,” Meyer said. “That place was just so big and full of resources. I leaned on my academic advisor a lot in scheduling classes. They did a great job of letting me know that there were tutors available if I needed it. That’s a heck of deal. Other students would have to pay a great deal of money to get that kind of assistance.”
Prior to graduating in December of 2012, he approached Coach Tanner about how to make some contacts in the business world, and a networking path with fellow Gamecocks led to him finding the right opportunity.
“One of the reasons I got out of professional baseball is because I wanted to settle down and have a family,” Meyer said. “Coach Tanner put me in touch with former Carolina baseball player, Bryon Jeffcoat. I liked what I heard when I spoke to him, and later interviewed for a job. So here I am. I’m selling commercial insurance. Another former Gamecock, Lee Gronkiewicz, also works for the company. So we’ve got three former players here in the same company. We even have a former Clemson player too. We have a good time throwing jabs at each other.”
Speaking from experience, Meyer understands the importance of career networking.
“It’s huge,” Meyer said. “I referred one of our old equipment managers to our company as well, and now he’s training in our company. People from our baseball program helped me out, and now I’m trying to pass it on. So much of business and sales is referrals and knowing the right people. I’m looking to expand that network.”
Looking back, Meyer credits South Carolina with not only helping him achieve his dreams on the field, but off the field as well.
“I really felt like the university had a hand in my success,” Meyer said. “They wanted me to be successful just as much as I did. They really want to look out for you during your playing career and afterwards. The university has a great network to help you out with anything you need to be successful.
“Coach Tanner has been a big influence in my life,” Meyer added. “He’s always been a big mentor for me because he has always done things the right way. He always did things with integrity. It’s what you strive to be. I still talk to a lot of the guys I played with all the time. We have a special bond. We get together and do our best Coach Tanner or (former assistant) Coach (Jim) Toman impressions and have fun. It’s like we never left. We practiced hard, but we knew how to have a good time.”
Meyer was inducted into the USC Association of Lettermen’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. He and his wife, Christy, are enjoying life with their two-year-old son, Hudson.