Ohio State football Urban Meyer reflects on one of the most refreshing years he has ever experienced and looks ahead to the future during his appearance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club.
Urban Meyer was applauded as he entered the packed Tozzi’s on 12th banquet room and was given a standing ovation when he was introduced.
When you’re an undefeated Ohio State head football coach, you’re really among friends at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club.
The luncheon club welcomed Meyer for the first time Monday. A crowd of 369 — the club’s largest of the season — was in attendance.
Meyer spoke on a number of topics, including the Buckeyes’ 12-0 season in 2012. He called it one of the most “refreshing years” he has ever experienced.
A MAGICAL YEAR
The Buckeyes’ unbeaten 2012 season came in the face of a one-year bowl ban that cost the seniors one last shot a national title.
All of them could have transferred to another university without having to sit out a year. Meyer quickly realized why they chose to stay.
“There’s genuine love for your university and genuine love for your teammates,” Meyer said. “That’s why they didn’t leave.”
His first Ohio State team became the sixth in school history to go undefeated and untied.
“We weren’t the most talented team in college football,” Meyer said. “... By the end of the year, that team could have played with any team in America.
“A group of players said, ‘We only get one shot at this thing. We don’t have the prize at the end, but we’re going to do something very few teams have ever done, and that’s try to win every game.’”
TURNING THE CORNER
Meyer has two jerseys in his office of players who represent what be believes football is about — Tim Tebow’s and John Simon’s.
Simon played through a shoulder injury he suffered during Ohio State’s preseason camp. After reaggravating the injury during a game and receiving a game ball from Meyer afterward, the senior defensive end broke down.
“I was sick because I couldn’t do the same thing,” Meyer said. “I’m 48 years old and the head football coach and I didn’t put as much into it as he did.
“I looked around our team and didn’t see that from anybody. You had a football team full of evaluators, you had a coaching staff not working hard enough, you had a team that somehow got to be 3-0 or 4-0 and we had a problem.”
A speech from former Buckeye Butler By’not’e during a team meeting helped change the mindset of the players and coaching staff. He talked about the commandments you live by, making sacrifices and put time into what you do.
“It changed my life when I heard this guy talk,” Meyer said. “It also changed our season.”
Page 2 of 2 - CHANGE OF HEART
Meyer had every intention to hire a new coaching staff after he arrived at Ohio State.
Director of Athletics Gene Smith asked him if he could meet with Luke Fickell first.
As an ESPN analyst, Meyer watched from afar as Fickell coached the Buckeyes on an interim basis in 2011. Fickell took over following the firing of popular head coach Jim Tressel and with NCAA sanctions looming.
“We spent about 4 1/2 to 5 hours together,” Meyer said. “One of the things I made clear to him is I get one shot to be the head football coach and there cannot be any agendas.
“I prayed on it that night, talked with my wife about it and talked to a couple of people I know. In the morning it was very clear. He should be on our staff.”
Fickell assumed his old role as co-defensive coordinator and led a unit that improved during the second half of the season.
BIGGER YEAR FOR BRAXTON?
Many see quarterback Braxton Miller as a Heisman Trophy contender in 2013. He threw for 2,039 yards and rushed for 1,271 yards last season.
Meyer said Miller appears “locked in and dialed in” during the early days of spring football.
“He’s so talented that he’s gotten away with some very unorthodox play,” Meyer said. “... We’re working on that. He can be a fine quarterback.”
SIGNING DAY SWEEP
Running back Dontre Wilson and receiver James Clark were big additions for Ohio State on national signing day.
The Buckeyes also were in the running for safety Vonn Bell. Clearing that hurdle would be difficult. Tennessee, Bell’s boyhood favorite school, also was on his list.
Meyer’s wife Shelley had her doubts.
“She looks at me and says ‘You’re not going to get Vonn Bell,’” Meyer said. “I’m a competitive guy and I’m like ‘Yes we are.’”
While running on a treadmill and watching television on signing day, Meyer saw that Bell was about to announce his decision. Suddenly his phone rang. It was Bell.
“He said ‘You know I’m with you, right? ... I’m coming to Ohio State,’” Meyer said.
“The first person I told was Shelley.”
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