In Ohio State’s Search for Leadership, Meyer will Start with Big Jack Mewhort
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Among the trophies, awards, rings and other memorabilia Urban Meyer has collected in his 12 years as a head football coach, there are two unique items in his new office at Ohio State.
Photo by Dan Harker
Those two items hold a special place for Meyer, who has coached a pair of undefeated teams (one at Utah and one at Ohio State) along with his two national championship clubs at Florida.
It was there, in Gainesville, where Meyer coached Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and for the longest time the left-handed quarterback held a special place all his own. It recently became a room for two, but Meyer is hoping to expand the part of his office he has reserved for his most exemplary leaders.
If the Buckeyes are going to win a national championship in Meyer’s second season, he has to find that kind of leadership on the group returning from last year’s 12-0 football team.
“That’s the essence of how we’re going to do,” Meyer said Monday at the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, Ohio.
“A guy named Jack Mewhort, a left tackle out of Toledo, he’s that, I’m hoping … I think he’s the guy to watch.”
Photo by Dan Harker
That other jersey hanging next to Tebow’s No. 15 in Meyer’s office is a No. 54 in scarlet and gray. John Simon was the heart and soul of last year’s perfect season. Without his leadership, and a few of the other guys in his class, that football team is probably an eight or nine win unit at best.
“I walk him by my office all the time. I show him that spot,” Meyer said of Mewhort.
“I tell him, ‘I have a spot for a jersey right here. And it’s not just because you’re a great player. It’s because you’re one of the most selfless, toughest human beings to ever play the game.’ ”
Toughness has always been in Mewhort’s DNA, but that doesn’t always make you a leader.
“I wouldn't say I've always thought of myself as a leader,” the fifth-year senior said after practice last week.
“There's a quote around here that ‘Leaders aren't born, they're made,’ and I'm a pretty observant guy, I've spent a lot of time in my younger years around here watching the older guys. Paying attention to guys in leadership positions. I'm trying to take what I've seen from good leaders and apply that now.”
Meyer had called on Mewhort a year ago, asking him to be the leader of an offensive line that had largely been a disappointment before the new coaching staff arrived. He took on that challenge in the spring, though he admitted it didn’t always come natural, but the summer presented Mewhort with some setbacks in his quest to be a role model for the Buckeyes.
“Jack was a good kid before that incident, he just made a bad decision,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said.
“So it wasn't like he had to rehabilitate his whole life and his personality and his way of living and how he does everything. He just learned that you've got to be responsible and accountable all of the time.”
The police video from Mewhort’s arrest – he was booked for urinating on a public building after The Memorial Tournament – showed the big offensive linemen suggesting to a teammate they call coach Meyer right away to let him know.
“He made one bad decision. We thought he was a pretty good guy before that. We were kind of shocked that that happened,” Warinner added.
“But that's the youth. He's grown up a lot, he's learned from that. Other guys have learned from that. He paid a price for it, but came back stronger. That isn't something that I carry around. I don't ever bring it up.”
No one does anymore. Warinner says he barely even remembers the incident considering how far Mewhort has come since last summer.
“If you hadn't brought it up, it wouldn't even dawn on me that that happened,” he said.
“That won't be a memory that I have of him. I see it as a one-time issue. He's come a long way just because he's a grown man and very mature. He loves football, he's a hard worker. He does whatever he wants.”
In fact, Warinner said the 6-7 left tackle is too hard on himself over the incident, and anything he does wrong. But Mewhort knows he learned a valuable lesson, even it came at a price.
“You have to be a guy that's trustworthy in all aspects of life,” he said after losing his scholarship for the summer heading into his junior year.
“You can't come out here and play good football, then go out on campus and miss all of your classes. It's being a well-rounded guy and being a guy with discipline, and I'm working hard to be that guy. It entails a lot of different things that I'm trying to work for.”
Mewhort was a captain on his high school team for coach Doug Pearson at Toledo St. John’s. He was also a member of the gold-medaling winning Team USA at the 2009 Junior World Championships, but being a captain at Ohio State comes with a whole different level of responsibility.
Especially if he wants to see his No. 74 hanging up on in Meyer’s office some day.
“I know Coach Meyer expects a lot out of me as far as being a leader, and I definitely want to be a guy that he can depend on,” Mewhort added.
“I don't want to let him down with that, so I come out here everyday working and trying to improve as a leader and get everybody moving in the same direction.”
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