At some point in the NFL Draft, after positional needs are met, teams take the “best player available” approach and make picks based simply on talent no matter where the prospect plays on the field.
Offense, defense, skill position … doesn’t matter.
For the Messemer family of Rotterdam Junction, football has been a “best child available” experience. And gender … doesn’t matter.
Dad Rich has coached for over three decades, mom Melissa is a member of (and former owner of) the New York Knockout of the Women’s Football Alliance, and their youngest, Carson, is a junior offensive lineman at Schalmont High School who was selected to the Daily Gazette’s All-Area second team.
Carson came along in the later rounds, though. He has two older sisters, Shae, a junior at Medaille College in Buffalo, and Eden, a freshman at Siena, and both were drawn into the football ranks as players, too, making the sport a family affair for the Messemers.
While the sisters eventually moved on to other sports, football remains a strong bonding influence, and one for which the family is making multiple adjustments in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, even during the offseason. Eden even stuck with it as far as her sophomore year at Schalmont as a player on the junior varsity, before her lack of size relative to the boys became prohibitive.
“Eden played Pop Warner, flag and tackle, as a first and second grader, then she was a cheerleader through eighth grade,” Melissa said on Wednesday, the eve of the NFL Draft.
“Then because she was always around football, between my son playing football, me playing football and my husband coaching, we have always operated as a unit.
“So one goes, we all go.”
Melissa Messemer has been playing semipro football for 15 years and has been involved with the Capital Region-based Knockout as a player and owner.
The WFA boasts 59 teams in three divisions across the country, but their 2020 season, which was supposed to start three weekends ago, is in limbo. Melissa was supposed to play on the Knockout full-time, and Rich is on the coaching staff.
“We haven’t been canceled yet, but it’s on hold indefinitely,” Melissa said. “Women’s football really is a shoestring business, and from a past owner’s perspective, they’re probably trying to figure it out from a fiscal standpoint.”
Shae and Eden Messemer both became soccer goalies at Schalmont, but also played football as young girls before switching to Pop Warner cheerleading.
Shae became the “accidental goalie” for the Sabres in 2016, long recruited to the team by coach Alaina Resue, also her Spanish teacher. Resue’s persistence finally paid off when Shae was a senior, and it was fortuitous for the Sabres, since starting goalie Alexis Ryder had broken her collarbone in the summer and would miss most of the season.
“Shae reluctantly helped her teacher out and filled the spot,” Melissa said. “They were sectional champs. Not too shabby.”
Once cleared to play again during the postseason Ryder regained her spot and was in goal when the Sabres won the Section II Class B championship.
Melissa said she agreed with the decision, but it was a tough position for a parent after having watched her daughter play all season.
“It was my kid who got put on the bench, so of course I think it stinks, but I definitely would have made the same decision as a coach,” she said.
Shae, someone who had turned her nose up to soccer for a long time, is on the soccer team at Medaille, but still gets to feed her football passion by attending Buffalo Bills games.
Eden followed in her sister’s spikesteps, then took it a step further by playing JV at Schalmont, her sophomore season cut short before it had barely begun by a seriously broken arm. She was a receiver as a freshman and moved to defensive back the following year.
Eden was willing to give it a shot as a junior, but wasn’t big enough, and wasn’t interested in playing JV again, while all her classmates had moved on to varsity.
“She couldn’t pack on enough weight — and she did try,” Melissa said. “But she couldn’t get heavy enough. She would’ve played safety. Coming downhill, if a 240-pound running back breaks through the line of scrimmage, here comes all 120 pounds of her …”
So Eden moved on to soccer and found rewards with the highly successful Sabres program. They won a Section II championship in 2017.
“She entered an extremely competitive, giant female family, which was really great for her,” Melissa said.
Besides making Gazette All-Area, Carson was also a Class B all-state honorable mention selection by the New York State Sportswriters Association, and he’s carrying the football load for the family now, but stuck in a holding pattern.
That means workouts in the garage, which has been converted to a weight room, and agility drills with cones and hurdles in the driveway.
It also means missing three football camps, including RPI’s and Syracuse’s, Schalmont’s spring football activities and throwing the discus and putting the shot for the track and field team.
All three of the Messemer kids are also adjusting to the new format for schoolwork, especially Eden, who is a chemistry major at Siena and loses the hands-on experience of labwork.
“One of my teammates for the Knockout is a professor, and even she’s like, ‘I’m not set up for this,'” Melissa said. “And she’s a history professor, so at least it’s not a hands-on science.
“As far as the cabin fever part, it’s tough to go to college in your dining room or bedroom, because you’re always in the same place. There’s no change of atmosphere. Move a muscle, change a thought … that’s not really a thing, because you’re in the same place all the time.”
At least the NFL Draft has brought a refreshing draft of oxygen into the football-passionate household, which leans heavily toward Ohio State and the Las Vegas Raiders.
“Absolutely. We watch football all the time, anyway,” Melissa said. “The XFL? We were so excited for that. We watch the combine, and reruns of college games. We enjoy college a little more, because that’s where Carson’s heading, and those are the same rules that the women’s teams play by.
“For us, football is a really nice competitive break from mundane humanity. We get to be a part of something that you can’t legally do outside the white lines a lot of time. But the camaraderie, there is no sport that parallels better with actual life than football.”