NORTHFIELD, MINN. — Gerhard Meidt was a lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Defense Reserves. When school ended in Rothsay or Lyle or Minneota, the small Minnesota towns where Gerhard taught and coached football, the Meidts would get in the family vehicle and head to Washington, D.C., or other locations so that he could fulfill his active duty obligation.

Chris was the youngest of three children and made several of these journeys. At age 10 or so, Chris and his father started to kill time by mentally putting together drives on a football field.

"My dad would give me the down, distance and defense, and I'd call the play," Chris said. "He then would decide if the play worked or not. If he decided it didn't, I would try to convince him he was wrong.

"My poor mom [Karen]. She had to listen to this for hours."

Chris Meidt made another trip to Washington last week, and the only requirement was for him to catch a plane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"Once it was official I was hired, I had six different support people call from the Redskins," Meidt said. "Transportation. Lodging. Computer requirements. Video requirements. That was my first eye-opener as to the way the Redskins and the NFL operate a football department."

Chris quarterbacked state championship teams for his father at Minneota in 1986 and '87. He graduated with several national passing records. The Vikings won another title in 1988.

Chris went to Bethel. He spent most of his time there as the backup quarterback. He met Allison Rostberg, a basketball standout. She was the daughter of Grady Rostberg, the very successful football coach at Hutchinson.

Meidt and Allison were married, a merger of football families that eventually would lead to Chris getting to know Jim Zorn, Jim Wacker's quarterbacks coach at Minnesota in 1995 and '96.

"Cory Sauter was Grady's quarterback at Hutch, and I had done some work with him," Meidt said. "Cory was the Gophers quarterback for Jim. I had gone back to Bethel as the offensive coordinator. I told Cory that I would like to meet Jim."

Meidt sat down with Zorn one day at the Gophers football building.

"We talked for four hours, and it wound up being about everything but football," Chris said. "Mostly, we talked about faith and family."

The relationship stuck. Zorn wound up in Seattle as Mike Holmgren's quarterbacks coach with the Seahawks. Meidt wound up as the head coach at St. Olaf, where in six seasons he took the Oles from also-ran status to three consecutive 8-2 seasons and an overall 40-20 record.

Zorn was hired as Washington's offensive coordinator on Jan. 25, even though owner Dan Snyder did not have a head coach in place.

"Jim called and gave me the news," Meidt said. "We talked about a job on the staff every day for a while, and it didn't look like it was going to work out."

Then, a week ago, Meidt received an early-morning call from Zorn.

"There was something different about the conversation," Meidt said. "And then he said, 'I'm going to be head coach of the Redskins.'"

This allowed Zorn to talk about more specific duties for Meidt as an offensive assistant. This time, Chris couldn't say no to the job -- even with his three children entrenched in Northfield, with Allison working as a fifth-grade teacher, with the Meidt grandparents living a mile from the St. Olaf campus, with the Rostberg grandparents 75 minutes away in Hutch, and with his great appreciation for the young men he has had a chance to deal with in Division III athletics.

Meidt's title with the Redskins is offensive assistant. He will help Zorn work with the quarterbacks. They will both spend a lot of time with quarterback Jason Campbell, as he makes the expected transition from the power game of Joe Gibbs to the Holmgren version of the West Coast offense.

Once Meidt, 36, and Allison made the decision that Chris would make this step from nonscholarship college football to the top of the game, his head started filling with X's and O's.

Meidt left on Thursday and won't be back home until Easter.

"The next few weeks, Jim's going to have us going through two playbooks -- the Redskins' and the Seahawks' -- and see what works," Meidt said. "I've always loved the strategic part of football ... the more involved the better."

He paused, rapped on the desk in his St. Olaf office and said, "Man, I'm excited."

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and at 4:40 p.m. •