When Tom Meents was a child in Paxton, Illinois, he admired the monster trucks he saw on television. He tore photos of them out of magazines and hung them on his wall.
Now, kids are presumably doing the same thing with photos of Meents, who has driven monster trucks for 20 years.
He’ll strap into Max-D when he and his fellow drivers pull into State Farm Stadium Saturday, May 29, and Sunday, May 30, for Monster Jam.
Other drivers include Megalodon with Adam Anderson, Grave Digger with Krysten Anderson, Monster Energy with Todd LeDuc, Great Clips Mohawk Warrior with Bryce Kenny, Bakugan Dragonoid with Ryan Anderson, Zombie with Bari Musawwir, Monster Mutt Dalmatian-Galaxy with a driver to be named later, Vendetta with Mike Christensen, Jurassic Attack with Paul Jensen, Obsessed with Eric Swanson, and Wildcard with BJ Johnson.
“I’m super excited,” Meents said. “I love State Farm Stadium. It has a huge floor with a lot of room. The bigger space allows us to air these things out. We can do long jumps, big jumps and drive really fast inside of the building. It’s a riot.”
Meents said he is fortunate for the opportunities he has through Monster Jam. He started his career working on the cars for free and took the dream and rode it “all the way to the top.”
“It’s amazing when you wake up every day and do what you’re passionate about,” Meents said.
Being a monster truck driver is a privilege for Meents. He mastered the tricks he wanted to do, but there was one that he found particularly difficult.
“The hardest trick of all was to learn how to make a living at it,” Meents said. “That was a challenging feat. I had to figure out how to make it financially pay off and still be super entertaining on the track. It took a couple years for sure.
“Oftentimes, I outdrove my budget, so I ran harder and jumped higher. I had to find ways to make more money doing it while being more exciting to the fans.”
Meents, at one time, made it fun for himself, he said with a laugh.
“I do my absolute best to be law-abiding in my personal vehicle,” he said. “In the beginning, when I saw a car, my instinct was to go attack it. After all, I was running over cars for a living.”
He imparts his professional knowledge on newbie drivers through Monster Truck University. That’s his priority with the organization.
“I train all the new and upcoming drivers,” he said. “To see their excitement for it is all worth it. I like to see the tricks they’re working on and help them with it.”
He shares three things with his student drivers: “safety, safety and, most importantly, safety.” Meents, who at one time considered joining the Marines, shares with drivers to keep the monster trucks away from the venue’s walls so there’s no damage. Meents gets a kick out of seeing his students succeed.
“In the beginning, you just see so many things ahead of you, so much work that has to be done,” he said. “You have to learn how to start it, how to perform great tricks, how to jump big and land safely.
“It seems like a lot of work, and it’s strenuous. In the end, when you see they’re done and they’re fantastic, it’s all worth it.”
If You Go...
What: Monster Jam
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 29,
and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 30
Where: State Farm Stadium,
1 Cardinals Drive, Glendale
Cost: Tickets start at $20