Steve Meilinger, a two-time first-team All-American who played on both sides of the ball and was known as “Mr. Anywhere,” will have a permanent location: the College Football Hall of Fame.
Meilinger played at Kentucky from 1951-53 under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and helped the Cats go 20-10-3, including an 8-4 mark in 1951 that was capped by a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Christian.
The All-American split time at end, halfback and quarterback on offense; on defense, he played end, linebacker and defensive back – essentially every position on the field except the interior offensive and defensive lines, a remarkable combination. On special teams, he was a two-year starting punter, and he returned punts and kickoffs.
Meilinger set Kentucky’s career records for pass receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns, with 75 catches for 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also rushed 134 times for 714 yards and five TDs, and he passed for 127 yards and a TD.
Meilinger was selected in the first round (eighth overall pick) of the 1954 NFL Draft. However, he went into the United States Army and spent two years as a Tank Commander in the 100th Tank Battalion of the 1st Armored Division.
After his service, Meilinger spent six years in the NFL – 1956 and ’57 with Washington, 1958-60 for the Green Bay Packers and 1961 with the Pittsburgh Steelers – before injuries ended his career. In 1960, he played in the NFL Championship Game under Coach Vince Lombardi. His career stats include 60 catches for 863 yards and eight touchdowns.
After he finished playing football, Meilinger became a U.S. Marshal. He was one of the original six marshals who founded the Federal Witness Protection Program and eventually became chief deputy of the Eastern District of Kentucky. After retiring as a marshal, he became a Property Valuation Officer for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Meilinger lives in Lexington with his wife Eileen.
Additional Wildcats in the College Football Hall of Fame include Bob Gain (1947-50), Vito “Babe” Parilli (1949-51), Paul “Bear” Bryant (1946-53), tackle Lou Michaels (1955-57) and Jerry Claiborne, who played at UK in 1946, ’48-49 and was head coach of the Cats from 1982-89. Bernie Shively, who was athletic director at UK from 1938-67 and head coach of the Cats in 1945, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in recognition of his playing days at Illinois.