Urban Meyer gets a salty question at the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, rolls with the punch, and draws one of many laughs during a memorable speech.
Announcing the Pro Football Hall of Club’s no-autographs-please policy sounded funny, given the median age of Monday’s packed house (around 70).
Given speaker Urban Meyer’s rock-star status, it also made sense.
“We need to change that policy,” somebody in the back of the room protested.
The Ohio State football coach drew a big cheer when he walked into the banquet room at Tozzi’s on 12th, filled with a season-best crowd of 369.
When he took the podium to a standing ovation, one diner said, “That’s a bigger response than they’d give the Pope.”
Meyer stamped his personality on the psyches of a group mostly partial to Ohio State.
“Are YOU wearing blue?” he said to a question-and-answer participant. It got a big laugh.
He told long, engaging stories (some of which will be shared in three parts in a transcript on cantonrep.com), shared plenty of substance on what to expect from his second Ohio State team.
He left as a friend who had participated in his buddies’ jokes.
During the Q and A, a boisterous fellow objecting went out on a limb in saying, “Before I pass away, I want you, before you play Michigan, to say they suck and we’re gonna kick their (backsides).”
As the laughter and applause following the question died down, Meyer said, “That’ll be my last go ... you want to be on my staff?”
In his first go, Meyer led the Buckeyes to an unbeaten season capped by a win over Michigan, and curtailed at that point by a bowl ban.
His 2013 team will play to great expectations for national championship contention, with presumed Heisman Trophy contender Braxton Miller at quarterback.
How is Miller coming along in spring practice?
“He didn’t have necessarily a great Saturday,” Meyer said, “but he’s locked in and dialed in. Braxton is a 3.3 student, great kid, no issues on or off the field, wonderful kid, good family.
“The only negative is ... he’s so talented, he’s gotten away with some very unorthodox play. He just runs around, ‘I’m faster than you, so I’m not going to work so hard on fundamentals.’ And he is that fast.
“But he can be a fine quarterback. And he can throw. We’re really working on that. And the guys around him are working.
“(Wideout) Devin Smith (from Massillon) is having a heck of a spring, too. Braxton is doing much better. I love Braxton Miller.”
Meyer said his recent recruiting class was rounded up with an eye on improving team speed.
“We’re not the fastest team in the country right now,” he said. “We need to get faster. We signed three guys who run 10.5 (in the 100-meter dash) or better. That’s fast. I mean, that’s Devin Smith fast. But we need more of that.
Page 2 of 2 - “The game-breaking ability on offense was not there.”
Meyer’s appearance in Canton was part of his drive to connect with all things Ohio football. He has reached out to high school coaches and to the state’s two NFL teams.
“I grew up a Browns and a Bengals fan,” he said after the speech. “Coach Chud (Rob Chudzinski of the Browns) and Marvin Lewis (of the Bengals). We’re going down to Cincinnati (for the spring game April 13), and Marvin is going to speak to my team.
“I’ve talked to the Browns, and the owner, Jimmy Haslam. I hope they take our guys (in the draft), because we’re big Browns and Bengals fans.”
Meyer is a huge fan of defensive lineman John Simon, whose leadership he says transformed the 2012 season (the story will be Part 2 of the transcript on cantonrep.com). He hinted Simon would fit in the Browns’ new defense.
“He can play 3-4 (outside linebacker) and defensive end (in a 4-3),” Meyer said. “I think he’ll be a 10-year veteran in the league if he stays healthy.”
The Browns have question marks at tight end. Jake Stonebrunner is entering the draft.
“Jake’s got a good future ahead of him,” Meyer said. “He’s a real talented kid, a little like the Aaron Hernandez kid we had at Florida.”
Meyer threw a compliment to his basketball counterpart, Thad Matta, and the point guard, Aaron Craft, whose game-ending 3-point shot Sunday put the Buckeyes in the sweet 16.
“I’m no basketball expert, but I know people,” Meyer said. “Love that kid, man.
“I’m screamin’ at the TV (as Craft holds the ball with the final seconds winding down against Iowa State). I’m like ... what are you doin’? Ten, nine, eight ... What are you doing? Go! Go! Go!
“You see his confidence. You know he struggled for about three minutes. Those two missed front ends of one and ones. A turnover on the sidelines. I mean, man. That’s a grown man.”
Meyer said he’d love to have coached Craft as a football player.
“What position would he play? Yes,” Meyer said, drawing a laugh.
Meyer was introduced by former Massillon Tiger John Muhlbach, who was the center on Ohio State’s 1968 national championship team.
As a speech to remember unfolded, it became clear Meyer knows. He needs to deliver one of those.
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP