CLOSER LOOK: Arlington’s Jarom Meza

Riverside Arlington senior captain Jarom Meza started every game this season -- scoring two goals and adding two assists -- following three years of almost constant rehabilitation from hip and knee injuries.

Riverside Arlington senior captain Jarom Meza started every game this season — scoring two goals and adding two assists — following three years of almost constant rehabilitation from hip and knee injuries.

Take a closer look at Riverside Arlington’s Jarom Meza and you’ll see an athlete not short on stubbornness.

The Lions’ fiery senior captain has sustained serious injuries, endured numerous rehabilitation stints and made a few realizations along the way to retaking his place as the Lions’ midfield enforcer in his final season.

“I am most definitely (stubborn),” Meza said. “That’s my drive – to play no matter what it takes.”

Meza was on the Lions’ varsity roster as a 14-year-old but torn muscle tissue in his right knee forced him out until all but the final few weeks.

“That was right before league and I got into a challenge (attempted tackle),” Meza said. “I missed the majority of the rest of the season.”

He returned in time to start his sophomore season and had two goals in 11 games before a pre-game injury required six months of rehabilitation.

“It was during a warmup (and) I chipped my hip bone and tore the muscle attached to it just lunging out for the ball,” Meza said. “That was a season-ending injury.”

He was back as a junior starter and began the season with two goals in his first five appearances before suffering a torn left ACL during a league game. He had surgery last February and kept cool despite another round of months-long rehab.

“In the moments when I was sitting on the sideline, when I’d watch my teammates play whether it’d be win or lose or whatever; those moments of missing out on something were there (but) I believe things happen for a reason so I’ve come to accept what’s happened to me as valuable lessons, life lessons through these injuries,” Meza said. “I do not regret them as a bad thing. I see them as a blessing.”

Injured athletes are affected differently when unable to compete and forced to watch others play. How they respond says a lot about their character.

“Jarom’s probably the strongest player I’ve ever coached, mentally and on the field,” Arlington coach Kevin Watson said.

Meza’s had a productive senior season, with two goals and two assists in 17 games as Arlington (7-9-5 overall, 3-5-2 Inland Valley) rebounded from a slow start to have a strong second half and force a real tussle for the IVL’s third and final automatic playoff spot.

“I’m so proud of my team and what we’ve been able to do this season,” Meza said. “The way we’ve been able to turn things around is exciting.”

As a follower of the Mormon faith, Meza says he is considering a traditional mission after high school graduation but may opt for a shot at collegiate soccer. BYU Hawaii is recruiting him heavily, and he’s heard from a few other schools.

“It’s something that’s constantly on my mind. It’s a process but I’m not leading to one side,” he said.

He also has learned something about patience, even if he recently played a day after a collision left his head bloodied.

“The doctor had to put three staples in but it wasn’t too serious. I was able to go the next day,” Meza said. “Nothing to stop me from playing.”

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