The most challenging position to get noticed in the NFL is as an offensive lineman. Yet, Quinn Meinerz won fans’ hearts at his first training camp, earning the nickname “The Belly.” Now in his third year, he’s winning over Broncos Country for his stellar play as a run-blocker. 

Week 8’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs highlighted how this Broncos offense can be successful with their run game. As Meinerz has continued to improve this season, so has the entire offense. With playoff aspirations still alive, Meinerz will play a massive role in how Denver finishes the second half of the season.

The Gut

Meinerz, hailed from Hartford, WI and was a Hartford Union High School graduate. While in high school, he earned the nickname “The Gut,” a name he embraced wholeheartedly. Initially, as a 5’9″ and 180-pound freshman, he briefly joined the junior varsity football team but was swiftly demoted due to concerns about his size. 

Determined to prove himself, Meinerz underwent a remarkable growth spurt over the offseason, also dedicating himself to the weight room and adopting a heartier appetite. By the following season, he had transformed into a formidable presence at 6’2″ and 260 pounds. In his sophomore year, Meinerz secured a spot as the starting right tackle on the varsity team and became one of the most accomplished offensive linemen in the school’s history.

Despite receiving limited collegiate offers, he opted for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Division III school. During his freshman year, Meinerz played in two games before earning a starting position in his sophomore season. He played a crucial role in the Warhawks’ dominance, contributing to leading the conference in scoring (39.2 ppg), rushing (240.5 ypg), and total offense (435.8 ypg). For his performance, he was honored as a first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) selection.

Continuing his stellar performance, Meinerz started in all 15 games during his junior year, garnering first-team honors from the All-WIAC, Associated Press, and American Football Coaches Association. The Warhawks reached the Division-III national championship game, leading the WIAC in rushing (195.7 ypg) and first downs (310) that season.

While gearing up for his senior year, the entire Division-III season faced cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Belly

Meinerz encountered challenges in his NFL draft prospects following the cancellation of his senior season. However, his standout performance at the 2021 Senior Bowl drew attention. His versatility as a player became evident when he played some reps as a center, boosting his draft stock.

Further enhancing his appeal, Meinerz delivered an impressive performance at the 2021 NFL Combine, showcasing exceptional athleticism by testing at or above the 65th percentile in every category. His relative athletic score reached an almost perfect 9.98 out of 10.0.

Meinerz was selected 98th overall in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He was the highest-drafted Whitewater football player in the school’s history and the first since 2007.

At training camp, he immediately became a fan favorite for letting his belly out and became known as “The Belly.”

Though initially seen as a replacement at center, Lloyd Cushenberry III kept his job, and Meinerz stuck to playing guard. 

In his rookie season, Meinerz saw the field in Week 3 due to injuries to Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow. Meinerz played in 15 of the 17 regular season games, starting in nine of them. While he made some rookie mistakes, he thrived as a run blocker.

Last year, Meinerz started and played in 13 games as the starting right guard. He only allowed 16 pressures on almost 500 pass-blocking snaps and 3.5 sacks. 

According to Pro Football Focus, in eight games this season, he’s allowed zero sacks, three quarterback hits, and 12 pressures.  His 76.8 overall offensive and 80.7 run blocking grades rank him as the fifth highest guard in both categories in the NFL.

In order to beat the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, the Broncos will need to keep the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands as much as possible by heavily running the football. If Meinerz can repeat his Week 8 performance, the Broncos might pull off the underdog win again.