Courtney Smith Hoping Her Husband Can Follow Urban Meyer’s Lead
By Michael Chung
When someone grows up in Worthington, Ohio and later marries the grandson of an Ohio State coaching legend, it is a safe bet they are destined to be Buckeye.
To top it off, spending time with Urban Meyer at Florida before he returned to Ohio for his dream job further hammered the nails of fate for this Columbus-born Buckeye. Such is the life of Courtney Smith. The great grand father of her children is none other than Buckeye legend Earle Bruce and her husband Zach – Earle’s grandson – got his start under current Meyer down in Gainesville.
Zach and Courtney Smith
The young spouse of Ohio State’s wide receivers coach grew up right in the backyards of Columbus. With those roots, Ohio State seemed like destiny but sometimes destiny takes detours. Rather than going to college at Ohio State, which was too close to home, young Courtney set out to explore new pastures in the Bluegrass State, attending the University of Kentucky. It was there, of all places, she would fall in love with someone who would eventually bring her home.
Young Zach Smith played football at Bowling Green under Urban Meyer but when Meyer left for Utah in 2003, Smith decided to transfer to UK to finish out his degree.
Knowing he wanted to get into coaching, the grandson of Earle Bruce had a connection with the Wildcat football program through some friends. This would not be the only important connection Zach would make at UK. It was there that he would meet a fellow Ohioan in Courtney. It was her freshmen year when they met.
“We met at a party and it was instant attraction but our first date was at a library studying for a history final,” she said.
“Once we started talking, we realized we were in the same 400 person history class all semester and never even knew it.”
She tells people “you can’t control who you fall in love with.” And fall in love they did, but before they could tie the knot, Zach got a call from Urban Meyer to be a graduate assistant at the University of Florida. Their relationship became a long distance one. Young Courtney would fly down to Florida every few months, where she quickly became known as “the girlfriend” to Urban Meyer. Soon, this long distance relationship became one of matrimony and Courtney, a Corporate Communications major at UK, became Mrs. Zach Smith.
Being a coach’s wife can be hard, and before Courtney pledged her heart, Zach’s grandmother – the late Jean Bruce – had some choice words for her, warning her of the pressures and loneliness of being a coach’s wife. But Courtney could not deny her heart and chose to enter into the challenges of being married to an intensely focused man, one who has taken her on a long and not always so tranquil journey.
Zach and Courney Smith
The last five years have not always been easy. With two young children – 2 ½ years and 7 months – Courtney lives the life of a coach’s wife, having to care not only for her two young children but also for an entire football team as well.
Zach has proven himself to be a great father and husband in the eyes of his wife, despite the long hours, so Courtney deals with it like any coach’s wife has too.
“He is just like Urban so I hope he can learn how Urban has been able to turn it off and how to go home and enjoy his family,” she said.
Zach Smith and children
“Zach works hard like any coach but he has a good mentor to follow, one who almost worked himself to death but saw that life was not just football.”
Despite the problems Zach’s intense work habits have caused at times, Courtney could not be prouder of her man and his coaching achievements.
“It was his work ethic that led him to a major program at such a young age,” Courtney states. “I am so proud of him! He is still so young yet has achieved a position which takes most people years to get to.”
When Zach is home, he does not usually talk football but is focused on family. He does talk to Courtney about his job at times, but for the most part he is there for the kids. Deep down, though, Courtney knows that being the grandson of Earle Bruce means football is in her husband’s blood.
“He loves coaching and is happy doing his job,” she said, “He loves the relationship part of it, developing players and seeing them grow.”
Courtney Smith and family
But Courtney is involved too. In recruiting, before a player is about ready to commit, Courtney gets to meet them. She wants the families to know that she will help Zach and the football team care for their son.
“I have a special relationship with each of the players in a different way,” Courtney said.
“Take Devin Smith, we are close, I relate so well with him because like my son he is also a mama’s boy and because of that he had made a strong connection with my son and I.
“Take Jake (Stoneburner), he is from Dublin so I tease him about it all the time,” she added, “I become very maternal towards them. Take Verlon Reed, when I do not see him on the field and playing I ask myself, ‘why is he not playing?’”
What is Earle Like?
“Earle is an amazing person and an amazing family man,” Courtney said. “You can tell that Earle lights up when he is around Zach, something is going on in his heart that Zach lights up.”
But he is also hard on Zach.
“Earle will come in and tell him what he needs to do, but overall, grandpa is very supportive and proud of his grandson.”
How is Earle Doing After Jean’s Passing?
Earle Bruce was married to Jean for 56 years. She died last December of lung complications. Earle Bruce, now 81, has been coping well but it has been hard.
Mourning through the loss of your companion for 56 years, Bruce presses on like any football-minded man.
“He is sad and not himself, it is like anyone who has lost the love of his life,” Courtney said.
“He is trying to consume himself with staying busy. He goes to practice, has a radio show, visits friends, doing best to stay as busy as possible.”
Courtney goes on to say, “Earle is losing some weight but he looks good.”
Before the season, Zach and Courtney would go over to Earle’s house with the great grand kids.
“He is great with them,” Courtney said. “I have videos with great grandpa playing swords with my 2 ½ year old, but since the season has started, we do not see him as much, he is really busy and never really grew out of the coaches mentality.”
A Different Perspective on Urban Meyer
Courtney also has a unique perspective on Urban Meyer. She got to watch him at Florida as he took the Gators, and himself, to new heights. But she also watched as he began to come unraveled as a man down in Gainesville.
“There was a definite change in Urban while I was at Florida,” Courtney said.
“I first met Urban in 2005, before he won his first title. He was great. At dinners he would introduce all the spouses and I was known as ‘The girlfriend.’ Everything Urban has told the press is true, he really was driven by the pressure.”
Courtney goes on to say, “When Zach and I took the job at Ohio State, I was wondering how Urban would be. And in one phrase: he looks great.”
“Urban realizes what is important, he is healthy and looks great, I remember in Florida he lost a lot of weight but now he seems much more relaxed. I am hoping Zach sees this and follows Urban’s example because Zach is just like him personality wise and is putting a lot of pressure on himself similar to what Urban did in Florida before we left.”
From the eyes of Courtney Smith, we can see that behind every great man there is a great woman and it looks like Zach struck Buckeye gold with Courtney at his side.