Part one of a transcript of a talk by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer that held a Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club audience spellbound.
Who is Urban Meyer, other than the young icon who led Ohio State to an unbeaten season in his first year as head coach?
The 48-year-old dynamo revealed a lot about himself Monday in a wide-ranging talk to the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club. A season-high crowd of 369 packed Tozzi’s on 12th.
Repository writers Mike Popovich and Steve Doerschuk covered Meyer’s first visit with the Club as a Buckeye boss, which will be chronicled in Tuesday’s Repository and on cantonrep.com.
In addition to that coverage, as a rare window into what makes Meyer tick, in his own words, we have done a transcript of his talk, dividing it into three sections.
In the first, Meyer took the audience back 10 years, to his two-year run as head coach of Utah, as he shared a quick story about his road to Columbus.
“At Utah, we had Mormons, non-Mormons, married Mormons, non-married Mormons. We had African-Americans, Hispanics and Polynesians. It was my first taste of an incredible culture of people. You talk about family culture ... and they’re freaks, they’re different, I mean they’re monsters, so that was kind of our niche.
“We had a perfect season out there, a great team. And seeing these different cultures come together and be one was an incredible experience. So, we win the first championship in 60 years that first year (2003). We go to Memphis to play in the Liberty Bowl. We’re playing a team from Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Southern Miss). I haven’t been in Hattiesburg very much, but I can just only imagine there’s probably not a whole lot of Polynesian down there.
“So I’m sitting with one of these young players from the opponent at one of these welcome parties. Great player, will linebacker, great kid. And we’re sitting there talking about 30 minutes. One by one, our kids are walking by ... the big dark-haired, dark-eyed dark-skinned kids, the Polynesians, walking by, the 300-, 350-pound guys.
“In that hard southern accent, he looks right at me and goes, ‘Coach, I’ve never seen so many of these big Puerto Ricans in my entire life.’ I spit Coca Cola all over the place. I go, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no.’ I said, ‘They’re Polynesians.’ And he looks even more confused. And I said Tongans, Samoans. And he looks at me like this, and I said, ‘You know what. Those are some big old Puerto Ricans.’ (Laughter)
“So I went to Florida and had a great run, great people, great university, and then I get the phone call to come back home and coach at Ohio State.
“Last year, one of my great friends ... a guy I never forget when you’re treated right. Coach Jack Rose (nodding to the former St. Thomas Aquinas, Massillon and GlenOak head coach in the audience). He treated me, I mean, like a brother, ever since I’ve known him. Can we have a round of applause for the newest inductee into the Ohio High School Hall of Fame, Jack Rose (applause). Great man and a great friend.
Page 2 of 3 - “I couldn’t wait to address the state high school coaches association. A lot of these guys I’ve known forever. I mean, I love high school football. One of my first jobs was to address the state high school association in Columbus at the Easton down there. And so, it’s chaos, it’s after recruiting, I’m trying to get through the lobby. I look at my watch and ... I’m on in three minutes. I’m not gonna be late for this.
“So I go up to the front door and there’s a girl standing there and she stops me. And the place is packed. I start walking in there and she goes like this (motioning) ... ‘Stop, stop, stop. You need a lanyard to get in here.’ I don’t have a lanyard. I say, ‘No, I’m speaking here in a minute,’ and she says, ‘No, you have to have a lanyard.’ And I say, ‘I’m the head coach at Ohio State.’ And she kind of looks at me and says, ‘No you’re not.’
“This year, I spoke again, and I went right up to her, and I guess because we won a couple of games, she went like this (dramatic arm sweep). C’mon in, c’mon in.” (Laughter)
Meyer went on to tell a detailed and dramatic story about how the 2012 Buckeyes evolved from dysfunctional to an unbeaten finish that will be shared tomorrow. The star of the story is defensive lineman John Simon.
Later, Meyer took questions from the audience. This is what he said when asked about who will replace Simon as the primary team leader in 2013. His response:
“That’s the essence of how we’re going to do. Simon was so unique ... it’s gonna be hard on defense. On defense, Christian Bryant, C.J. Barnett and Ryan Shazier are three names that are surfacing. But the guy ... a guy named Jack Mewhort, a left tackle out of Toledo, Ohio, he’s that, I’m hoping. I walk him by my office all the time. I show him that spot (where Simon’s and Tim Tebow’s jerseys hang in his office as exemplary leaders). I tell him, ‘I have a spot for a jersey right here. And it’s not just because it’s because you’re a great player. It’s because you’re one of the most selfless, toughest human beings to ever play the game.’ I think he’s the guy to watch.
“Our offensive line ... we have four returning starters from the best offensive line in the Big Ten last year. We’re gonna live and die with our offensive line, which is a good place to be.”
Meyer’s general thoughts on how strong the 2013 team will be:
Page 3 of 3 - “We lost a bunch of good players. I don’t know. We’re five spring practices in (leading up to the spring game April 13 in Cincinnati). The last six games last year we were one of the top 10 teams in America on defense. The first six games we were lousy. It was really because of some fundamental errors.
“Look at who we lost. John Simon. Nate Williams. John Hankins. We lost Garrett Goebel. So, the defensive line’s gone. Etienne Sabino (also gone) was one of my great leaders. The good thing is we recruited well, but we’re young. I can’t tell you at this point, but that’s what to watch. If you hear good things coming from the defensive side of the ball, then we’ll be better than we were last year.
“Offensively I anticipate we’ll be better just because they know (the system) ... I mean, it was bad last year going into the season.”