MISSOULA — Before every football or basketball game, Fairfield's Ryder Meyer momentarily steps away from the huddle for a private conversation.
He isn't talking to coaches or his teammates, but to two close friends — Lauryn Goldhahn and Luke Gonsioroski — who've passed away within the last two years.
Goldhahn, 15, died after suffering fatal injuries in a rollover car accident in August 2016. And Gonsioroski, 18, lost his battle with cancer in August 2017.
"I'm trying to carry on their legacy through sports or be there for their families," Meyer said, choking up. "... How much they impacted peoples' lives, it isn't something I want to forget. I don't want other people to forget about them because they were amazing people and had a lot going for them that made other people want to be better."
Meyer, currently a junior at Fairfield, hopes to make Goldhahn and Gonsioroski proud with his next step. The two-way player committed to play football for the University of Montana after his high school career ends.
On April 18, Meyer was the first to commit for the Grizzlies' 2019 recruiting class.
"Just growing up in Montana for sure and always being a fan of the Grizzlies and watching small town players be successful there," Meyer told 406mtsports.com on Thursday. "With Coach (Bobby) Hauck coming back and knowing the type of tradition he's had, that's just something I wanted to be a part of."
Meyer said he couldn't name one favorite former Grizzly in particular, but his top three of all-time — in no particular order — are Colt Anderson, Shann Schillinger and Marc Mariani: all native sons of the Treasure State.
"Watching all those guys play their college careers and then going on and continuing in the pros, it's something you can't really put into words, being able to essentially be a part of it," Meyer said. "For me, realizing that something like that can happen at the University of Montana, was something I want to be a part of."
Meyer said Hauck officially offered him on April 14 after Montana's spring game.
The offer was just another positive thing for Meyer that happened in the month of April.
Meyer found out he's one of 25 finalists for the U.S. Army-Pro Football Hall of Fame for Excellence award. He and the other finalists will be flown to Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame game in August. There Meyer and the finalists will get to meet the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame inductees and find out who wins the $2,500 scholarship.
A ceremony was recently held in Fairfield too, where NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes presented Meyer with the finalist's plaque.
Meyer said Montana currently has him slotted as an "athlete," meaning he isn't pegged for a specific position once he arrives in the fall of 2019. He plays wide receiver and safety for the Eagles and doesn't prefer one position over the other.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Meyer earned all-state honors after his junior season, earning first-team all-Northern B status as a defensive back and second-team all-Northern B honors at quarterback.
Meyer still has an entire year of high school left before he steps onto the field at Washington-Grizzly Stadium as a player. And he has some goals he wants to achieve before then.
One of them: making it to the Class B state title game.
The Eagles won the Class B championship in 2015, Meyer's freshman year. They haven't been back since.
Fairfield lost to eventual champion Eureka last season in the semifinals. And the year before that, Fairfield lost a painfully close game, 24-21, to Loyola Sacred Heart in the semifinals too.
"My sophomore and my junior season we lost in the semifinals twice. I want to get back to the state championship like we did my freshman year," Meyer said. "That's what's driving us, my team and I, coming so close to playing in that game again."
But before the ball is kicked off for the first time next fall, Meyer will carry on his personal tradition of talking to Goldhahn and Gonsioroski.
"'I'm going to play for you guys,'" Meyer says. "... It's a way to maybe make them proud."