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Ohio State’s Urban Meyer now a legend despite early career bumps

Jan 01, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer smiling after the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the University of Phoenix Stadium. (Photo Credit: Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire)
Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire

Long before he became Ohio State’s football coach, long before he was running up an obscene 61-6 record with the Buckeyes in five seasons, long before he was a no-doubt candidate for the College Football Hall of Fame, Urban Meyer actually doubted himself.

He wasn’t sure if he should be a coach.

He wasn’t sure about his methods.

Who ever dreamed it would turn out like this?

Meyer is having as dominant a career as any college football coach this side of Nick Saban. He’s only 52 years old. Provided he stays healthy and doesn’t get restless, he could run up some staggering numbers at Ohio State.

Again, who saw it coming?

Well, Earle Bruce, for one.

“Urban Meyer was as sharp as they come,’’ said Bruce, his mentor at Ohio State, who hired Meyer as a graduate assistant in 1986. “He proved early on that he was special.’’

Many big-leaguers labored in the minors.

Several notable CEOs can tell stories about being an intern.

Even legendary head coaches do their time as grunt assistants.

Meyer is no different. It’s where he found himself as a coach, and much of the time was very bumpy.

His first full-time assistant coaching job was at Illinois State. He was miserable. There was too much losing and not much discipline. Sometimes, he wondered if the players cared enough.

He thought about law school.

But his wife, Shelley, stepped in.

“A lawyer? Do you want to be boring?’’ Shelley Meyer said back then. “I wasn’t going to let that happen. I knew he would miss the influence over young people. Some people are born to do certain things. I truly believe Urban was born to coach. It’s in his blood.
“I knew he would miss the bonding. Football is a family within itself.’’

Meyer believed he should be the authoritarian figure in his football family. He often ruled with an iron fist, and feathers were definitely ruffled.

At Colorado State, where he coached receivers from 1990-95, Meyer underwent a fundamental change. Sonny Lubick, the good-guy head coach, pulled Meyer aside and preached perspective.

“We had a guy quit at Colorado State because of me,’’ Meyer once said. “Because I was just out of control. If it wasn’t for Sonny, I probably wouldn’t be coaching now.

“He taught me to take a step back. I’m still all about being aggressive and attacking, but it’s not personal like it was. You’ve got to make sure the kids enjoy coming to practice.’’

Meyer was molded into the head coach who turned around Bowling Green and made Utah into an unbeaten BCS powerhouse. He ruled over a golden era in University of Florida football history — one that featured Tim Tebow and two national titles — and now has guided Ohio State back to legendary status.

The dominant Meyer of today was put in place by ever-evolving stints as an assistant coach.
Clearly, he learned his lessons well. Once upon a time, he wanted to make a mark in college football. Now, he’s making history.

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