Urban Meyer said after the Rose Bowl win that if it wasn’t his last game, he would have walked off the field with a phone in his hand already getting back to work on recruiting.
Instead, with his children in tow, he walked off the field arm in arm with his wife Shelley. Bearing a full smile, he was surrounded by media on his way to the locker room.
Buckeye fans lined the lower levels of the Rose Bowl stadium nearest to OSU’s locker room, shouting their appreciation and goodbyes.
Before Meyer entered his final victory tunnel as Ohio State’s head coach, he gave out one final O-H, which received a hearty reply from the Buckeye fans in attendance.
It appeared to be a fulfilling goodbye for a head coach who apparently has no intentions of bidding adieu to the Ohio State football program any time soon.
In fact, his goal now is to make it even better.
“I have the best athletic director that you can be around,” Meyer said after the game. “I have a school that I love dearly. I feel very welcome in Buckeye Nation and I’m an Ohioan. So my job as we move forward is to make Coach [Ryan] Day, who is an elite coach, make this program even stronger, and that’s all our focus. That’s their focus, my focus, [athletic director] Gene Smith’s focus. It’s a very strong program, but we’re going to make it stronger.”
For one night, however, Meyer allowed his focus to shift to simply enjoying the moment. Following the Rose Bowl trophy presentations, Meyer left the stage, then brought his family back up with him so that he could get pictures of everybody together in his last game.
He was soaking in the moment like an understudy preparing for the role of a lifetime, except here he was taking a final curtain call.
“This has always been very personal,” he said of his time at Ohio State. “I’m from the great state of Ohio and I’m very proud of my state. I’ve been a Buckeye fan, like I said, as long as I can remember.”
One last O-H from Urban Meyer as he walks off the field as Ohio State's head coach for the final time. pic.twitter.com/kvSPLIQgrN
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) January 2, 2019
That respect drove Meyer in his seven years at Ohio State, but that wasn’t the only motivator he was able to find and utilize.
“It’s not healthy all the time – but I operated under the sense of fear,” he said. “When I would see our former players come around this program, and you know I was in the elevator yesterday with Archie Griffin, a dear friend, and John Cooper is a dear friend, and we lost Coach Bruce recently, and Jim Tressel is a dear friend of mine. And I just felt an obligation to not let them down.”
Rather than let anybody down, he took Ohio State to new heights. The Buckeyes won an incredible 86 games over his seven seasons, including seven division titles, three conference titles, and one national title.
And while he may take a step back for a bit, his desire to make Ohio State better isn’t going anywhere.
“Right now, I’d be starting to put pencils to who is coming back, who is not coming back, and what do we do at left tackle, what do we do this, what do we do that,” he said of his normal post-bowl routine. “But the new guy’s got to worry about that, and we’re certainly going to help him.”
Meyer will still be involved throughout the University and athletic department, but his home is always going to be the football program. Anything he can do to help, he will do.
Recruiting, fundraising, brand-building, whatever it takes to make OSU better and to give the players everything they need, you can expect him to be as busy as he wants to be.
For now, however, he has earned a vacation.
Here’s hoping he gets at least a little bit of time to himself before Ryan Day or Gene Smith calls him up to ask him when he was planning on coming back to work.