Kindler named 2023 Dylan Meier-GBL Player of the Year

Kpreps GBL Player of the Year Dawson Kindler - Gardner-Edgerton. (Brian Kodger, Photo Expectations)
By: Conor Nicholl for
Apr 24, 2024

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Gardner-Edgerton head coach Jesse Owen and his staff had normal offseason meetings to discuss personnel for the 2023 football season. In ’22, the Trailblazers finished 9-4 and lost 21-20 in double overtime versus Manhattan in the Class 6A state championship game.

As a junior in 2022, Dawson Kindler collected first team all-state honors at fullback with 1,500 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns. Gardner-Edgerton scored 35 points per game and permitted 18.8, fifth-best in 6A. The coaches believed the Trailblazers had several young running backs who could step up by committee and provide similar production. Owen labeled the linebacker position “thin” after some graduations.

The coaching staff noted Kindler’s versatility and believed he could move to linebacker. Owen talked to Kindler very early in ’23 summer workouts. Kindler, in a highly unselfish move, jumped at the opportunity to switch and help the team.

Owen, a two-time all-conference running back at Pittsburg State, had served as a longtime assistant coach at Olathe North and a stint as Olathe East’s head coach. Owen couldn’t recall a player of Kindler’s ability switching to another side of the ball for his senior year. Kindler had never played the position previously in high school.

“I told him right away that I will do whatever it takes for the team,” Kindler said.

Kindler diligently worked at the new position during the summer. The switch paid off as Gardner-Edgerton finished 12-1 and won the 2023 6A state football title, the first one in program history. Kindler, the starting “Will” linebacker, delivered 80-plus tackles and helped the Blazers’ defense to a big improvement. His athleticism allowed him to cover in space, contain crossing routes and take care of running backs.

“It was fun learning the other side of the ball,” Kindler said.

The Trailblazers allowed 8.8 points per game, easily the best in the classification – and the top in 6A in at least four years. Gardner-Edgerton also paced 4A through 6A schools in scoring defense last fall, per the Sunflower Sports Solutions database.

“Dawson would be the first guy to credit his teammates,” Owen said. “So our defense was outstanding, and we had several really good, productive players. I think aside of playing and making tackles and making plays, the biggest thing that Dawson did was just the example that he set, to be willing to move over defense after being an all-state guy on offense – that really set the tone for our entire season.”

Owen noted that Kindler is an even better person than football player. Kindler’s all-around performance earned him the Kpreps’ Dylan Meier - Get Busy Livin’ Player of the Year honor. The prestigious award is given annually to one senior football player each season. The award honors Dylan Meier, a former All-State quarterback at Pittsburg High and starter at Kansas State University who died in a hiking accident in 2010 at the age of 26.

Owen knew the Meier family from his time at Pittsburg State.

“It means a lot to me – this award,” Kindler said. “And how my coach has been telling me how big and how powerful this award is and means. And so I am very grateful for it.”

The annual GBL 5k race will take place this Saturday April 27th, at Hutchinson Football Field located next to Pittsburg Middle School. Start time is 9:00 a.m.

The award goes to someone who has not only shown excellence on the field but also demonstrated the values that Dylan embodied and GBL strives to promote: adventure, fitness, curiosity, and daily zest for life experiences.

Kindler is part of National Honor Society and a state powerlifter. An all-state javelin thrower, Kindler recently placed third at the prestigious KU Relays. He is headed to Emporia State to throw javelin.

Kindler goes to two churches, Fellowship Bible Church and New Life. He attends church Sunday mornings and nights, along with Wednesday youth groups. Kindler is part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has attended camps and Mission trips in Kentucky, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic. Kindler is part of the “All In Blazers” club that helps the community in various roles. As well, Kindler works in a nursery and wants to “make sure” he spreads “the most love and joy I can to all kids I come in contact with.” Kindler has loved being around kids. His parents host a lot of foster kids.

“It’s always just amazing to meet a new person,” Kindler said.

Owen believed the 2023 season started when Gardner-Edgerton, unranked the bulk of ’22, lost to Manhattan in the state title game at ESU. The Trailblazers returned many highly experienced and hungry players. Owen had never been a part of a season like ’23: the heartbreaking loss and significant preseason attention the next year.

Gardner-Edgerton’s all-state selections included Kindler, senior offensive lineman Ethan Whitley, quarterback/athlete Bravin Powell, all-purpose player Randy Singleton, defensive linemen Spencer Easley and Mark Debiak, linebacker Kaleb Dewey and defensive backs Cameron and Eli Porter.

“They shared a vision,” Owen said. “They knew exactly what they wanted to get, and they were determined not to let anything interfere with that. I think to win a championship, obviously we were talented, but it requires more than just talent. You have to have a group that is focused like that.”

Last summer, Owen saw Kindler become “better and better” at linebacker.  Defensive coordinator Bryan McCall worked with Kindler on drills, getting in the right position, reading the quarterback and making the right plays. The duo worked together for 30 minutes to an hour after summer weights and conditioning. They met for film once a week and watched film from the previous year or 7-on-7 summer scrimmages.

“The thing that I had to learn the most and definitely was the most difficult for me was being patient as a linebacker, because being a fullback, the running back, you have to, right on the snap, get ready to go 110 percent,” Kindler said. “As a linebacker, you have to be patient and sit, and make sure making the right reads before you go down and fill the gap.”

Gardner-Edgerton was preseason No. 1 in 6A and opened with three straight blowout wins.

“When you look at the fullback position, and playing linebacker, those are kind of two sides of the same coin,” Owen said. “So usually if a kid is good enough to do one, he should be able to do the other. And Dawson is just a very coachable young man.”

The season elevated in Weeks 4 and 5 with wins against Mill Valley (49-10) and Olathe North (21-14). The Trailblazers had lost to both teams a year prior by a combined score of 48-16. Mill Valley eventually won its fifth straight 5A state championship.

In the 6A title game, Gardner-Edgerton faced Derby in the snow at Emporia State. At state last year, Owen reminded the team of ’22 – and the chance to finish the season “where it really began.” The Trailblazers fell behind, 13-0, and came back to win 22-19.

Kindler’s most vivid memory of last fall came when Gardner-Edgerton kneed out the final seconds. He took in the “joy” and “true happiness” that enveloped the program when the teammates and coaches hugged each other.

“It’s really a credit to Dawson,” Owen said. “He is so unselfish that when we approached him and told him about the experiment over the summer, he didn’t bat an eye. He didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Coach, wherever you guys need me, I’ll be there if you think it’s going to help the team.’ And we had a senior class – they were all like that, just a bunch of unselfish kids that were willing to play out of position. But Dawson really epitomizes that group.”

Kpreps Dylan Meier - Get Busy Livin Player of the Year -- 2023 Finalists
(listed alphabetically by last name)

Holden Bass, Nemaha Central
Braxton Clark, Derby
Dylan Dunn, Blue Valley Southwest
Omari Elias, Kapaun Mt. Carmel
Tucker Harrell, St. Mary’s Colgan
Brody Hayes, Clay Center
Tanner Heckel, Lyndon
Brock Keith, Meade
Brayden Kunz, Conway Springs
Cooper Simmons, St. Mary’s Colgan
Jackson Voth, Cheney


Dylan Meier – Get Busy Livin’ Player of the Year Award

The award is in honor of Dylan Meier, a former All-State quarterback at Pittsburg High School and starter at Kansas State University who died in a hiking accident in 2010 at the age of 26. 

The award goes out to one Kansas high school senior who not only has shown excellence on the field but also has demonstrated the values that Dylan embodied and Get Busy Livin’ (GBL) strives to promote: adventure, fitness, curiosity and a daily zest for life experiences. 

The award is made possible by the Get Busy Livin’ Foundation and

Past award winners include:

2022 – Nolan Freund, Kingman
2021 – Jaren Kanak, Hays
2020 – No award named
2019 – Tyler Green, Mill Valley
2018 – Jace Friesen, Basehor-Linwood
2017 – Carter Putz, Bishop Miege
2016 – Will Schneider, Shawnee Mission North
2015 – Tucker Horak, Rossville
2014 – Denzel Goolsby, Bishop Carroll
2013 – Austin Chambers, Shawnee Mission West
2012 – Brad Strauss, Lawrence
2011 – Kole Schankie, Madison


Dylan Meier, a 2002 graduate of Pittsburg High School, was a two-time All-State quarterback for the Purple Dragons. He continued his football career at Kansas State University and started 11 games from 2004-06 as the Wildcats’ signal caller.

On April 19, 2010, Meier died at the age of 26 in an accident while hiking with family in Arkansas.

In addition to his time in Kansas, Dylan played professional football in Germany and Italy, served as a bodyguard for Italian fashion models, worked in a vineyard overseas, ran with the bulls in Spain and went skydiving in the Alps. His next plans included coaching football in Europe, teaching English in Korea and possibly a return to Kansas State as a graduate assistant.

“He had a real zest for life,” Merle Clark, Dylan’s high school coach and family friend said days after the accident. “He lived a lot in his 26 years.”

That zest for life is the basis of the Get Busy Livin’ Foundation that was established in Dylan’s honor. The mission is to provide support for individuals and groups that embody the values that Dylan pursued: adventure, fitness, curiosity, generosity and a daily zest for life experiences.

The GBL Foundation is determined to break down the boundaries that keep people from living life to the fullest, whether those boundaries are social, economic or imaginary.

GBL uses donations to promote these values in the following ways: student/athletic scholarships, sport camp sponsorships, student travel abroad scholarships, community service needs and other activities that inspire and build character.

For more information, please visit



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