PITTSBURG — Even at his funeral, Dylan Meier found a way to make his friends smile.
They cried too, of course, but before saying their final goodbyes to Meier on Monday in his hometown, nearly 1,000 mourners were laughing and enthusiastically applauding the former Kansas State quarterback's adventurous life.
Many of those in attendance at Memorial Auditorium — including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins and Wildcats coach Bill Snyder — said they had never seen anything like it.
Since Meier's death last week from a hiking accident in Arkansas' Ozark National Forest, those close to him have asked that Meier's 26 years on earth be celebrated.
"Dylan had such a passion for life," said Pittsburg High football coach Merle Clark. "Whether it was playing football, running with the bulls in Spain, skydiving in the Alps, touring Russia, sailing around New Zealand, attending a bluegrass festival in Winfield or playing the bongos... he lived a full life."
The Meier family honored each of those moments during a picture tribute prior to the service, and showed mixed emotions throughout the funeral. Upon seeing the large turnout, several of them perked up in appreciation. But as the ceremony went on they could not hold back tears.
All three of his brothers — Adam, Kerry and Shad — were on hand with their parents, Dennis and Valerie.
Kerry played quarterback and wide receiver at Kansas and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday. Shad played tight end at K-State and in the NFL. Adam played for Pittsburg State.
Snyder praised all of them during his speech, but focused mostly on Dylan Meier's attitude toward life.
"I've spoken at numerous funerals," Snyder said. "Sometimes you have to search for the right words. You always have to find the positive things. With Dylan it becomes so simple, because there are no adverse thoughts or deeds we can share about Dylan... special doesn't do justice to Dylan. Dylan was a 24-hour-a-day individual. Every single moment of the day, he was looking forward to the next adventure."
Two other speakers discussed those adventures at length. Meier, who wore his blonde hair long and insisted on trying new experiences, had plenty of them.
Reverend Dan Moss encouraged others to embrace life the way Meier did, and shared some of his favorite sayings.
"He lived by mottos," Moss said. "No regrets. Win with class. Lose with dignity. Never quit."
Family friend Tim Knoll went deeper, and shared Meier's hidden ability to tell a story. Knoll called Meier a poet, and read some of his work to prove it.
In a mass e-mail sent out to friends and family during a five-week stay in New Zealand in 2009, Meier told a humorous tale of sailing the Tazman Sea with two elderly, inexperienced sailors he had just met.
The story recounted all kinds of mishaps, and the crowd laughed throughout Knoll's reading. Knoll paused before reciting the final line of Meier's e-mail, though.
It read, "Other New Zealand adventures coming soon. Hope everyone is doing well. I'd love to hear from ya."
That request was honored with a proper ending for any celebration. Everyone in attendance rose to their feet and gave Meier a long standing ovation.