Meyer Feeling Good, Looking Forward to ‘The Chase’ in 2013
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has been down this road before.
Photo by Jim Davidson
High expectations; razor thin room for error; all eyes on the man who helped bring college football out of the dark ages and into today’s world of high-octane spread offenses.
He knows what it takes. He has been there. He has tasted the crystal against his lips, felt the confetti on his shoulders. He has been to the top of the mountain and it’s the only place Meyer has felt truly fulfilled by the world he has lived in for more than 25 years.
“I like the guys who – nauseous isn’t the right word – but sick to their stomach,” Meyer said of the idea of not reaching that mountain top.
“You have to get over it and you have to move forward. That’s where I have the hardest time.”
Bumps in the Road
By his own admission, Meyer hates to lose. At anything. He despises it. He loathes the feeling, knowing full well the taste of victory will never quite outweigh the agonizing encounter with defeat.
“Those are the speed bumps and as a competitor, how do you handle a speed bump,” he asked.
“To be honest, you don’t want to handle it too well.”
Those speed bumps are something Meyer has yet to experience at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes won all 12 of their games during his first season as the head coach in Columbus.
Photo by Dan Harker
Meyer went out and hired a great coaching staff at Ohio State, including a few late additions in Ed Warinner and Kerry Coombs who turned out to be some of his best hires. He also found out he had a great group of senior leaders, starting with John Simon, Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino.
“I’m in a really good place right now,” Meyer said this week during an appearance on ESPN’s College Football Live in Columbus.
“Once you hit a certain point in your life, you don’t want to go back there. I feel great. I've got a bunch of good guys I work with and I trust my staff.”
Trusting his staff was a big part of the problem at Florida when Meyer decided to retire from the coaching profession after the 2010 football season. Trusted assistants like Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong had been lured away to head-coaching jobs, and Greg Mattison – now the defensive coordinator at Michigan – was coaching the Baltimore Ravens’ defense.
Meyer stopped trusting his coaches and started to take on more than he could handle, but that is not what led to his ultimate decision to step away from the sidelines after six years in Gainesville.
“I think people had a misunderstanding of what happened in Gainesville. It wasn’t the stress of the job,” Meyer said during the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer this offseason.
“There was some chest pains that went undiagnosed for three years. We won a couple championships and I lost a friend at Northwestern in Randy Walker. In the back of mind I'm thinking, ‘I’ll kill myself here, something’s not right.’”
He weighed 180 pounds, down 37 from his first year at Florida, and something didn’t feel right. After his team’s loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship game, Meyer was quietly admitted to a Gainesville hospital suffering from chest pains and dehydration.
“I had a bad night one night and that’s what did it,” he said.
“The X’s and O’s and the recruiting, that’s part of the business. It’s the fact I thought something was wrong. So that’s what happened.”
A Man Remade
Three years later and Meyer is healthy again, and happy. He is coming off the second undefeated season of his career and the man who never stops has rediscovered some balance in his life
He has found a way to be a better father and a better husband without sacrificing the amount of energy and passion he pours into his players and coaches on a daily basis. The difference for him now, is that when the season ends or spring football is over, he allows himself to unwind.
“In the offseason, I’m off. There’s time’s where I’m gone,” he said this week.
“I never did that in the past. There’s times I say I want to go – my son’s got this, my daughter’s got this or I want to take my wife somewhere – I would have never done that.
“I do that now.”
Meyer’s wife, Shelley, was asked about her husband keeping that balance between work and family since he agreed to return to the sideline two years ago.
“I would give him an A,” she said on the Cruise for Cancer.
But it’s not Shelley who Urban Meyer really has to worry about. He has two other women in his life who hold the 47-year old football coach to a much higher standard.
“You’ve met my two girls, those are my best friends,” he said of his daughters, Nicki and Gigi.
“I hear some people say that and it’s not true. That’s true, those are my best friends. We talk five or six times a day, and they’re very hard (on me). They’re tough people to please as far as taking care of myself and doing what’s right.”
That includes exercising. When Meyer was 180 pounds, he wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t a good 37 pounds he had lost, so keeping himself fit is a big part of the deal. With the help of medicine, Meyer fixed the problem that led him to that Gainesville hospital back in 2009, but the ultimate test of this remade man has to be faced.
“We didn’t have any speed bumps this past year, so having a speed bump is probably the best indication,” Meyer said during a conversation with Kirk Herbstreit on the Cruise for Cancer.
“But according to you and everyone else, we’re not going to have one for a long time.”
Eventually, though, Meyer will have to face his demons.
“The speed bump will come,” he acknowledged on ESPN.
“I hope it’s not real soon and not too many of them, but there’s things in place and I think I’ll handle it better.”
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