When Western Kentucky’s coaching staff threw out the idea of recruiting a cornerback from junior college, Clayton White had his guy in mind. He had a connection to Trae Meadows back when he recruited the cornerback out of Greensboro, N.C., to play at North Carolina State.

The two men had since taken different paths – White now entering his third season as WKU’s defensive coordinator and Meadows desiring a Division I landing spot after a season in community college.

The reunion was almost too perfect.

“The word JUCO corner came up and he was one of the first ones on my mind, no doubt,” White said. “Knowing him I said, ‘Hey, I’m the defensive coordinator now and I coach the corners. I recruited you and we have a great relationship. Let’s try to make something work.’ ”

Meadows was part of first-year coach Tyson Helton’s December signing class and enrolled at WKU last spring. He joined the program through spring ball and is expected to compete for a starting job at cornerback this fall.

WKU is just over a week into fall camp preparing for the season opener Aug. 29 against Central Arkansas. The clear connection between Meadows and White made the third college stop for the young cornerback a smooth transition.

“I’ve known coach White since my 11th grade year,” Meadows said. “We played our state championship at NC State, so he was one of the guys out there watching me who talked to me a little bit after the game. Just recruiting-wise, I’ve known coach White for years so he’s like a role model to me. He just made me feel comfortable.

“I was in a similar style defense. I played nickel in that defense but now I’m on the corner side, which is actually a little bit easier because you don’t have as many checks to do and fits in the box. It’s just one-on-one.”

That one-on-one skill is what separates Meadows from other cornerbacks. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Meadows is taller than most cornerbacks who make up for height with their coverage technique. Meadows has length to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, then become a receiver when battling for the ball.

“Any time you have a guy on the outside that has length and they throw the ball down the field, he’s able to get up and go as high as the receiver can get it,” Helton said. “At the same time, he’s got speed. The bigger the corner you can have, the better. A lot of times you get undersized corners because they’re fast and they cover well and all that. You get a big man on the outside and that helps you a lot.”

Meadows signed with NC State out of Dudley High School in North Carolina at the same time White was coaching special teams and safeties for the Wolfpack. He was one of two true freshmen to play on defense and he had an interception against Vanderbilt in the 2016 Independence Bowl.

Meadows redshirted the next season when White left to become WKU’s defensive coordinator. He played one season at Garden City Community College and recorded 34 tackles and an interception in 11 games.

“The transition humbled me,” Meadows said. “I didn’t want to take things for granted anymore. I always tried to do the right thing and give 100 percent every time.”

Meadows’ time in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference lined up at a time the league was in the national spotlight. The Netflix series “Last Chance U” highlighted Independence Community College for two seasons, and Garden City is a conference opponent.

Meadows played in the game that was featured early in the third season of that documentary series. Independence mounted a 21-3 lead before Garden City rallied to win 28-21.

“The conference I played in, they try to compare it to the SEC of JUCO so it’s good competition out there and everybody wants that second chance,” Meadows said. “The coach didn’t want us to focus on the cameras so much and get caught up in the hype. We went in the locker room and made adjustments and we knew we could beat them.

“There was Netflix and all this going on and when we came back out, it was different. We were ready for it, just blocked out the noise and played.”

Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a reputable junior college league and add in his size and football IQ, Meadows is expected to make an immediate splash with the defense.

“He’s been a great addition to the secondary,” White said. “We can do things we weren’t able to do in the past and hopefully we can keep getting better having guys along.

“It’s just his ability to read and he has a great IQ. It’s a feel for the game and he has a Jalen Ramsey-type mentality and we have a couple of guys like that, meaning that my technique can put me there, but my mentality will put the ball on the ground, so that’s kind of where he is.”{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

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