Urban Meyer: 'I Know Ohio State As Well As Anybody'


UPDATED: Wednesday February 1, 2012 7:19 PM

To say that Urban Meyer is driven wouldn't scratch the surface.

He is a man who thrives on competition, winning and being the best of the best, 10TV's Andrea Cambern reported.

After 10 full seasons as a head coach, Meyer, 47, has the tenth best winning percentage in major college football history.  His record ranks as second best among current coaches.  He was the only candidate interviewed for the job at Ohio State University.

It is a job he never thought would be his.

"I dreamed, I never thought," Meyer said.

Away from Ohio Stadium, in the confines of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Cambern found a softer side of Urban Meyer.  He was contemplative and quiet but clearly cognizant that fans in two states hang on his every word.

Some in Florida feel like a spurned lover, while there are those in Ohio who are reveling in the butterflies of a brand new romance.

"I thought I was done coaching when I left Florida," Meyer said.  "I loved Florida and it was home.  Our kids were raised there, lived there seven years -- the seven years your kids know -- so I was just going to stay there and do something."

Then, on May 30, 2011, Jim Tressel was forced to resign at Ohio State because of a scandal in which some of his players exchanged football merchandise for tattoos.

"Things started to surface up here," Meyer said.  "(I thought), 'Are you kidding me?'  If that ever became a reality, that would be the only place I would go coach."

Meyer said that he was devastated by what was happening at Ohio State.

"I knew a lot of the people that were here and they're good people," Meyer said.  "What went on here for so long was great, magical, so I was crushed."

Even though Meyer had not sported the scarlet and gray colors for 25 years, the Toledo-born and Ashtabula-raised Meyer has a degree from the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State, and got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce.

Meyer described being in his new office at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as surreal.

"What it feels like is tremendous obligation and responsibility because I know this place," Meyer said.  "I know this place better than anybody.  I haven't really said that publicly, but I know Ohio State as well as anybody."

His insight helped Meyer's Florida Gators embarrass Ohio State in the 2007 BCS National Championship game.  Meyer would lead Florida to two national championships in his five years in Gainesville.  While his football team was flourishing, Meyer said his health was failing.

"I started getting chest pains and losing weight," Meyer said.  "It went on for three years and, I would say in (2009), it was unbearable.  I'd wake up and go to sleep with terrible pains in my chest, and it got real bad one night and I lost consciousness."

While doctors ruled out any problem with his heart, diagnosing esophageal spasms, the episode would put Meyer's focus back where he said it belonged, on his family.

"All I care about is my family," Meyer said.  "Is it worth doing what I'm doing, and the answer is no.  It's not worth it."

In December 2009, Meyer resigned to spend more time with his wife, Shelley, who grew up outside Chillicothe; his college-aged daughters, Nicki and Gigi; and 13-year-old son, Nate.

Two months later, in February 2010, Meyer had a change of heart and returned to the Gators for the 2010 season.  That season, he won his 100th game as a coach but his team struggled with a 7-5 record, his worst in his tenure at Florida.  In December, Meyer again announced he would step down, citing health and family as reasons.

"(In) February, we were out for a walk and I looked at my wife and I said, 'I can't do this,'" Meyer said.  "She looked at me and started shaking her head and I said, 'I think I made a mistake.'  I even called my (athletic director) at Florida and I said, 'Listen.  You're my best friend.  You need to know, I think I made a mistake.

"He said, 'I know you did and I love you to death, but people go through things in their life.' We both agreed (to) take some time, remove it (and) get around my kids.  I have two daughters who play Division I volleyball, a 13-year-old son who's my guy.   We'll go coaching, do what dads do and I did."

Meyer told Cambern that he was hoping that the further he removed himself from competing that the better off he would be.

"I was kind of hoping that would happen, but it didn't.  It just intensified it," Meyer said.

While he did not say it, part of the appeal for Meyer taking over the top job at Ohio State seems to be  because of the current state of the program.

"(Maintaining (a football program) is awful," Meyer said.  "I've been there.  It's terrible.  To build is fun --its energy, excitement, its enthusiasm, its passion -- so we have to build.  We're taking over at a time when it's building time.  It's not maintenance."

And clearly Meyer recognizes that there is nowhere for the Ohio State football program to go but up.

"When you walk around here, there's a lot of energy.  There's a lot of uneasiness which comes with change, but as far as the energy level to build, there's nothing like it."

According to Meyer, taking over at a transitional time is not without worry.  He said he fears about letting people down.

"That's something that gets you places you don't want to go, but it's there," he said.

Meyer said that he also does not want to let his father down.  Bud Meyer died on Nov. 11.  He missed seeing his son formally accept the Ohio State job by 17 days.

"The fortunate thing about not coaching (was that) I was able to spend a lot of time with him," Meyer said.  "I flew up, spent a week with him, and we were watching every talk show.  (Some said) Urban Meyer is going to Ohio State.  He looked at me -- wasn't healthy, was really struggling -- and he said, 'Are you gonna go do that?  And I said, 'I don't know.  What do you think?'

"He said, 'Just make sure you're ready.  I kind of like what you're doing now.'  He kind of liked watching games and not caring who wins or loses.  He told me that, but I also know he wanted it because he's a Buckeye as well.  I wish he were here to see it."

The rest of the college football world will watch as Meyer becomes the 24th head coach at Ohio State.

"I'm blessed," Meyer said.  "The older I get, the more appreciative and I sit back and think, wow.   I never did that.  I was always taught when you look back, you're not looking forward and it's a sign of weakness.

"I sit back and I (say), 'Wow.  I have 23 years of marriage that couldn't be better, got my children that couldn't be closer and I got the job that there isn't a person that coaches wakes up in the morning that doesn't want.  Wow.'"

Meyer's first game as Ohio State coach is on Sept. 1 when the Buckeyes host Miami University.

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