Passing the Torch: Fickell Honored as Meyer Assumes Command
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was one pristine moment Sunday where everything finally came into focus with Ohio State’s football team.
In a perfect blend of what has been and what is to come, Luke Fickell stepped onto the court at Value City Arena and locked hands with the man who will lead the Buckeyes into the future.
Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell lock hands during the half time of the Indiana vs. OSU basketball game.
Photo by Terry Gilliam
The halftime ceremony during Sunday’s OSU-Indiana rematch was all about Urban Meyer, the new head football coach at Ohio State. That didn’t stop the sold-out crowd from paying special tribute to Fickell, who assumed the reigns of the program as interim head coach during one of the most tumultuous stretches in school history.
“We’re very fortunate to have one of the finest defensive coaches—and coaches—in the country stay on our staff,” Meyer announced to the crowd while playing the role of emcee for much of the ceremony.
“Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.”
The applause was deafening as fans rose to their feet, a tribute to all that Fickell had been through in the wake of Jim Tressel’s resignation.
This day was about the future. It was about better times ahead. Meyer made that abundantly clear with his passing comment about the offense, which received a loud welcome from the crowd.
“We’re going to run the spread offense, open it up a little bit,” he said while introducing new offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
But that was nothing compared to the roar for Fickell, who tried to fight back a smile he simply could not hide. This was not a forced smile, like so many Fickell has had to muster during these darks days—a 6-7 season that was anything but easy on Fickell and his players.
No, this was a real smile. A grin from ear to ear. With his wife, Amy, and kids watching from the stands, Fickell was beaming for the first time in months. It had to feel good.
“That was strong,” Meyer said, turning to Fickell after the applause finally began to quiet down.
Ohio State defensive line coach, and former Buckeye All-American, Mike Vrabel also received a nice round of applause, but nothing compared to the ovation for his good friend.
“Hey Mike, I think Luke had you beat,” Meyer said with a slight smirk.
In terms of sheer volume, the loudest response of the day may not have been a cheer. Before Meyer could introduce his staff to the crowd, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith took the microphone to a chorus of boos.
Smith tried to drown out the boos with a number of “OH” calls to the crowd, but he quickly realized it was best for him to get out of the way so Ohio State fans could enjoy a moment with their new football coach.
“Thank you very much and it’s great to be back home in the great state of Ohio,” Meyer said after receiving the microphone from Smith.
He started by introducing his family, beginning with his wife, Shelly, who he made sure to announce from Chillicothe, Ohio. Meyer then called his eldest daughter, Nicki, “the best athlete in the Meyer family” and his youngest daughter, Gigi, the “toughest one in the Meyer family.”
Last was his “13 year old mama’s boy” Nathan, who was all smiles on dad’s big day.
Front Row: The Urban Meyer Family
Photo by Terry Gilliam
One by one, Meyer introduced his new coaching staff to the fans, starting with the defensive coordinator and ending with strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti.
“The most important hire I made on this coaching staff,” Meyer said again, reiterating a statement he had made earlier about Marotti’s importance to the program.
“Great toughness, makes sure we’re in great shape and get this team ready to go.”
Ohio State fans were in heaven—a true moment of blissful nirvana—as they fantasized about the future of Buckeye football. All seemed right in the world. Urban Meyer was really there and Luke Fickell too. The best of both worlds; the passing of a torch from one of their own to a prodigal son come home.
“We’re here for one purpose and one purpose only, that’s to make the great state of Ohio very proud of your football team and your coaching staff,” Meyer said in conclusion.
“And we will get that done.”
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