There were rumors and speculation over the last five months that this would be Urban Meyer’s last season at Ohio State. Over the two weeks or so prior to the Michigan game, those rumors began to solidify.
Before announcing his retirement three days after winning his third Big Ten Championship, Meyer wanted to talk things over with a pair of team leaders in senior receivers Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell.
“He actually pulled me and Terry in the previous day before he announced it to the team,” Campbell said. “We just had a real conversation, probably about an hour and a half.”
“To be honest, at first, I didn’t even recognize the number because he may have got a new number on me,” McLaurin said. “But he called me in and he wanted Parris to come by and I didn’t really know what it was about at first. But he sat us down. It was pretty straightforward.
“He went through the things of his health being his first No. 1 concern and when he looks at some of the things that could possibly go on, if he continues at this rate, you don’t want to go through that, especially when he has grandchildren and children and a wife to worry about. He seemed content in his decision. Obviously it was hard leaving the sport he loves; what he’s given his whole life to.”
Meyer was looking for feedback from his players regarding possibly retiring, but also wanted to explain why he was thinking the way he was.
“He asked for our opinions and when he did that, I felt like it was pretty serious,” McLaurin said. “I didn’t think he was going to announce it. I thought he had maybe another year or so. But that next day, he told the team, and me and Parris were looking at each other like, this is for real.
“But first and foremost his health was his biggest concern. He’s always preached to us his family and us, that’s really all he has going in his life. That’s all he cares about and when something like his health is affecting the way he can coach and the way how intense he is, he probably just felt like he couldn’t give it his all anymore and he’s brought this program to where it needs to be. It’s going to be sad to see him go.”
When Meyer told the entire team, things went quiet. There were tears.
Campbell had an idea this was coming, however, and it wasn’t just based on the conversation that he and McLaurin had with Meyer the night before.
“My initial reaction was that I wasn’t really that surprised just because of all the things he’s been through, not just this season but previous seasons with those headaches and all the things he has been dealing with,” he said. “To have a dramatic season like we just had, something like that takes a toll on a person. He was thinking about his children, his grandchildren and being in their lives. I wasn’t that surprised.
“My relationship with Coach Meyer is one of the strongest on the team. I kind of know him like the back of my hand. I know when he’s having off days or he’s not himself. There have been practices where he and I have had conversations about the headaches and all the stuff going on in his head. I could tell him I could just see he was dealing with something, I could just see it in his face, see it in his eyes. Something like that is very serious. As he has mentioned before, it is not like it is your knee or your back or elbow or something. It’s his brain. I just kind of knew that [retiring] might have been a possibility.”
And looking back, Campbell wasn’t surprised that this happened now.
“I know this season took a huge toll on him,” he said. “That added stress plus the stress he already has dealing with those headaches and things of that nature, that was a lot to handle for any human being.”
For both players, it was not lost on them that their head coach would think enough of them to walk through his thought process with them. It was wholly indicative of the relationship that they have with Meyer.
“It meant a lot to me today that he would bring me in there and Parris as well to run our thoughts through his head and see how we were feeling about it,” McLaurin said. “We wouldn’t even be here, but just the type of relationship we have, it means a lot to me. He’s just leaving some things behind, but at the same time, I feel like he’s ready for the next step in his life. He really trusts coach [Ryan] Day. We trust coach Day and I can’t think of a better guy to take over for him. So Ohio State is still in good hands.”