The Homeless Husky: Ex-UW Linebacker Tim Meamber Is Coming In From the Cold

Living on the streets for four years, the former University of Washington and NFL football player soon will have a roof over his head.
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Tim Meamber parked his 2006 blue Ford van, filled with his dog Mona, food sources such as rice and peanut butter and all of his other possessions, outside a Smokey Point fast-food restaurant.

With an easy laugh, Meamber mentioned how he'd slept overnight at this shopping-mall location or been rousted from it many times. He even found himself surrounded by police cars that drove up on him in a hurry. 

His offense? 

He ordered and was eating a taco in his van while the teenager who'd served him behind the counter presumed he was intoxicated.

For the past four years, Meamber, a former University of Washington and NFL linebacker, has been homeless, living in a vehicle north of Everett, Washington, trying to survive the chilly elements and a solitary existence.

Things are about to change for him now, for the better.

Since Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated first publicized his living situation on February 10, arrangements have been made for Meamber, 57, to move into a small rental house in nearby Arlington sometime in mid-March. 

"It's been a long road," he said. "I can't believe we're almost there."

Two GoFundMe accounts were created on Meamber's behalf, enabling him to put money down for rent on the residence, located outside of the rural Snohomish County town of 17,000. 

Former UW teammates have visited him and given him gift cards for food and other sundry items. High school classmates have called from California and Montana. Football fans have reached out to him, with one man insisting on buying him four new tires for his van and Meamber accepting just two. Someone gave him tickets to a Seattle Dragons XFL game.

"He needs to be out of the van," said Paula Kooistra, a friend and local resident who has taken an interest in helping him. "The winter was really hard on him."

Meamber found himself in this tenuous position for a number of reasons. He deals with drug addiction, Parkinson's disease and possibly chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the latter a brain disease caused by head injuries and found  in many ex-football players. 

He played a prominent football role at Washington from 1981-84, serving as a three-year starter, a senior co-captain and first-team All-Pac-10 selection, appearing in the Rose, Aloha and Orange bowls. He went to the Minnesota Vikings as a third-round draft pick and played a season before injuring a knee, ending his football career.

Meamber often slurs his speech and has a nervous tick because of his health conditions, which leads others to think he might be inebriated. He makes ends meet on  a $1,000 per month disability check and medicare, and he visits area food banks for his meals.

As he prepares to move into the two-bedroom rental house in this country setting, Meamber says he wants to be productive again and return to work. He's considering regaining the real-estate license he once held. He would consider working with others who are trying quit drug use since he knows the subject so well. 

He still needs ankle surgery. A Seattle hospital recently canceled a scheduled procedure because he neither had the full means to pay for it nor any housing to return to and adequately recover past-operation. 

While in college, Meamber gave in to illegal substances, surprising himself at the voracity of his habit, which led to his downfall. It cost him a marriage and  a business. A drug user wasn't who he was growing up.

"From the time I was 12 to 20, I hated people who used marijuana," he said. "I was so anti-drug."

Yet Meamber fell deep into this lifestyle, finding he couldn't resist it and would do almost anything to maintain it. He frequented drug houses for nearly three decades. He met a few former UW teammates inside some of them. 

It was a dangerous existence. People threatened to kill him. He overdosed multiple times and nearly died.

His last brush with death came in 2009. He hadn't slept or eaten for a week. He was with people in a Lakewood hotel, in a notorious drug area, when he took a hit of crack cocaine. The negative reaction was instantaneous.

"I turned completely pink," Meamber said. "I remember thinking, 'Oh, shit, I'm in trouble.' "

People put wet towels on him while he fought for his life. It was a struggle and a test of will.

"I remember just trying to pull myself out of it," Meamber said. "It was up to me of whether I was going to live or die."

Today, the California native says he no longer uses drug, though recovering addicts are prone to slip-ups. He doesn't have the resources to purchase them. He fights the urges to use them.

"You've really got to want out," he said. "I know that. I came out the other side."

Yet through the dark times, Meamber always received regular reminders of the prominent athlete he once was. One instance in particular proved ironic if not humorous.

A decade ago, Meamber badly beat up a drug associate who stole his car and totaled it, shattering bones in the guy's face. His actions landed him in King County Jail. The court ordered him to pay restitution for the other man's medical bills and he sold a business interest to come up with the funds.

Meeting with his probation officer for one last time, Meamber was shown a personal photo by the other man. It was the two of them, standing side by side at a UW spring game. The football star and a boy maybe 10. Now the offender and his case monitor.

This court-appointed person explained how, for obvious reasons bordering on conflict of interest, he couldn't share the keepsake image any earlier.

With this person, Meamber went from revered to reviewed. He'll settle for something in between. House occupancy sounds good to him. He welcomes normal life again.

"It's been so long, I don't really know what to think about it," he said, rummaging through the van. "I'm just trying to balance things out."