"Lessons learned from a life lived": Urban Meyer remembers Earle Bruce

Urban Meyer speaks at the celebration of Earle Bruce's life at Saint John Arena Wednesday. (WBNS)
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COLUMBUS -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who idolized and studied under coach Earl Bruce, gave heartfelt remarks during Wednesday's Celebration of Life at St. John Arena.

Meyer started his coaching career at Ohio State under Bruce and followed him to Colorado State University before eventually returning to Ohio State to take over the program.

Here is his speech from Wednesday:

“I'd like to introduce my wife … and I think it's appropriate because we learned everything we do at Ohio State. Shelly and I used to -- when she was my girlfriend and fiancee when I first met Shelly in college and I became graduate assistant -- we studied the way Earle and Jean ran their programs. We said someday we'd like to do it the way Earle and Jean did it. So I’d like to Introduce my wife Shelly.

“Also, welcome former players and coaches for being here. Mark Dantonio I know you're very busy and all the other coaches that made the trip to be here, I speak on behalf of the Bruce family, that’s an amazing show of respect to be with us today. Also, as I always do when they are around -- I learned this from my boss. I wanted to thank the best-damned band in the land for being here today. Thank you so much.

“Heaven just got a little more intense, recently. I have a visual of coach walking across the pearly white Gates probably hooking up with my father and probably, coach Tressel, your father and requesting a meeting with the apostle Peter and the other saints and wants to review job descriptions and make sure everything is running smoothly. If not, I'm sure he'll give a corrective that's going on as we speak. He's a very intimidating coach because he was never wrong. When he was wrong, he was still never wrong. He made that clear with you. My first meeting with coach Bruce I believe was up that hallway here in St. John arena.

“I just finished playing at the University of Cincinnati and had an opportunity to interview for a graduate assistant position at Ohio State. Sitting upstairs waiting in the reception room and as I'm getting ready to go in coach Bruce's office, Tim Hinton walks by me, currently G.A. at Ohio state, introduced himself, said, ‘why are you here?’ ‘I'm Urban Meyer, interviewing for a graduate assistant position.’ He said, ‘which one?’ I didn't know there was more than one. I said, ‘I don't know, I'm just here.’ He said, ‘well there's one on offense, one on defense. Offense is tight end position. Defense is defensive back.’ ‘I played defensive back my whole life, I guess I'm here for defense.’ He said, ‘no, no, make sure you take the tight end position. Go after the tight end position.’ I'm thinking, what the hell? I know nothing about being a tight end coach. He's telling me: take the tight end spot. He started to leave.

“Coach Bruce's assistant said, he'll see you. Understand, I idolized coach Bruce. I grew up watching him coach. I come walking into the meeting in his office and I'm in awe, sitting there with Earle Bruce. He says, ‘sit down.’ He says, ‘why are you here?’ I was so intimidated when he said, what position are you here for? I said, ‘I'm here to coach the tight ends.’ Sweat started pouring off my forehead. By the grace of God, his assistant walked back in and said, ‘coach, there's this top recruit on the phone, you need to take this phone call.’ My knees sunk down. He gets up, takes the phone call. Looks at me, goes, you'll be fine, get with coach Lichenberg. That's how I got hired as a tight end coach at Ohio State.

“Another story I'd like to share, coach Alford and former players will share with you as well. This story dictates the foundation or tells the story of the foundation of why coach Bruce was the coach that he was. Very unique coach. Sharing the similar qualities. This is before laptops, iPads and cell phones. I would carry -- I can many coaching nodding their head. You had to carry a note card with players' name, parents' name, where they are from, his GPA, his girlfriend, where his girlfriend was from. You had to carry that with you at all times. Often he would test you and ask questions. You had to know everything you could about your player. But the one thing he really taught us -- never ever give up on a player. Ever. The media can, other people can. His family may even give up on him. Don't you, as a coach, ever give up on that player. So 1990 I was hired at Colorado state. There was a player I won't share his name because I have no reason to share his name. But he was a pain in the rear end. He was a tough guy to coach. We have all had guys like that. Would not go to class, disrespectful to people. Lazy. Did not do things the right way, to the point I would dive into him seven-eight times a day. It finally reached the point that I was hired any believe February or March of 1990 and one of our coaches got married that summer. At the wedding I told Shelly, I'm done with this kid, it's over. So I go to the wedding, we're on vacation and I'm waiting to see when coach Bruce walks in because I'm still -- he's been gone for a week, I'm still horrified of him. As he walks in with Jean, they sit down at a table across from Shelly and I'm sitting there and they sit down with his lovely wife and I look at her, I say, I'm going to go tell him. She's not sure what's about to happen. I walk over, the band is playing, it's a wedding reception. I walk over and I said ‘Hi, coach.’ He shook my hand. I said, ‘got a second?’ He gave me that pissed off look like he had. He said, ‘what's up?’ I said, ‘I can't take it anymore. This player doesn't go to class, he does nothing I tell him to do. I think he's a bad guy. I don't want him in the program. I can't coach him anymore.’ He looked at me, he goes, ‘lean in.’ What's going on? He said ‘let me explain something to you. That by Monday morning, I'll have a coach here who can coach him. Is that clear? Get out of here.’ I walked to Shelly and she goes ‘how did it go?’ I said, ‘great, I’m gonna coach him. The player will not be leaving Colorado State University. I'll figure out a way to coach him.’

“The final story I'd like to share, one thing that also coach Bruce taught me and often spoke to his players and former coaches about, when given an opportunity, you swing as hard as you possibly can and give it everything you've got. Whether it's an opportunity in corporate America, opportunity to be a father, opportunity to be a football coach -- you get in that batter's box and you swing as hard as you can because you never know when the next one is going to show up. So we're playing in the SEC championship, it was 2006. We're playing Arkansas for the SEC championship. Really, the first big, big-time game -- first national game I was in. We have the pregame meal. I addressed the players, send them to the rooms, they are going to come down and we get ready to go to the stadium. I'm a mess. The pressure is mounting. First opportunity in a situation like that. I was not myself. I did not realize as the players left, sitting to my right was Earle Bruce. Didn't even realize it. I sit down, I feel a nudge. ‘Hey, coach.’ He said, ‘how are you doing?’ I said, ‘not very good at all.’ By then, the servers are taking up the dishes. There's a good chunk of 20 of them picking up dishes. Here's the elder gentleman, older coach basically verbally assaulting and attacking a coach. He stands up, starts pounding me with the famous finger in my chest and starts screaming at me in front of the young ladies to the point where they got security. They didn't know who this guy was.

"He says, ‘you've got your team to this point because you let them play and you let the MF-er go.’ Now he's at the top of his lungs, ‘let the MR-er go.’ He kept screaming at me. I grab my pen, write on my game plan sheet at the bottom – ‘let the MR-er go in big bold letters. ‘

"The game comes. We're up 17-7 at halftime. We found out that USC has lost to UCLA. If we win this game, we're playing for the national championship of college football. Once again, it's upon us. The team feels it. I did not do a great job of calming the team. He went out and we played like we played for the national championship. Turnover, touchdown, Arkansas. Turnover, touchdown, Arkansas. Next thing you know, we're losing. The crowd is not behind us. They kick off, we get hit on about the 8-yard line. It's fourth down and 10 on the 8 for the championship in the third quarter. What do I do? I grab my folder, stare at the game plan. What do I see? Let the MF-er go. I call a fake punt. I'm telling you the story because I'm not sure I would have survived if that had not happened.

“We got a first down, the game changed and I can speak for many here today that coach Bruce's influence has influenced many former players and coaches with decisions such as that.

"Last night I was having a great conversation with a dear friend and he said something that impacted me. I told him I was speaking today. We started having one of those in-depth conversations about the journey we were on and about those who impacted our journey. He made this comment. I ask you to remember this as you leave today. A lesson learned, from a life lived. I'm going to say it again. A lesson learned, from a life lived. We are a product of those strategically placed by God in our life. Yet, we choose who to follow. These influences of these incredible people shape and impact our belief system, our process of the decision-making, our choosing friends, our actions in difficult times, actions in great times. Actions as a father and a husband. Our courage to chase our dreams and finally our stamina and energy to live life. Here we are at the lessons from a life lived, not just a life lived -- a great man's life that was lived.

"Here's lessons learned from this coach. Toughness. We heard about that earlier today. Toughness is No. 1 when you mention the name Earle Bruce. Here's thoughts on toughness. There's no substitute in football, living life, raising a family, in being a coach. You get knocked down, you get back up. Your love of family, his love for Jean was always on full display the way he treated her. His love for his beautiful daughters even when authority was challenged.

"Speak clearly and to the point. Make sure your thought and opinion is extremely well thought out and be prepared to fight for your belief or your opinion. And the difference between right and wrong. There's no gray area. Zero. You follow rules, do the right thing.

"Loyalty. Loyalty to your family, your former players, and your coaches. This can never be challenged.

"Finally, his incredible love for the Ohio State University and the legendary coach Woody Hayes. It was the university who let him go. It was a coach that pushed him beyond his limits at times. Yet this made his love that much stronger. I speak for many today, I stand humbled and appreciative that got chose Earle Bruce and my father to serve as my mentors and guide and teach me along this incredible journey. There will never be a day that I'm not grateful and appreciative to the Bruce family for allowing me to be part of your family for the past 32 years.

"A lesson learned from a life lived."

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