Urban Meyer in a Word: Driven

By Kyle Rowland on July 24, 2013 at 9:00a
One word to desribe Ohio State coach Urban Meyer: driven.

Urban Meyer has entered less than ideal situations at every head-coaching destination of his career. Bowling Green was at one of the lowest points in program history, Utah was mired in consecutive losing seasons, Florida’s glamour days were in the rearview mirror and Ohio State had just lost seven games for only the second time in program history and first since…1897.

But each time Meyer entered, wins followed. He’s a turnaround artist who’s mastered the craft of changing a culture and raising expectations. Winning isn’t the only trend that’s developed. Piling up victories in Year 2 has been a hallmark of Meyer’s career. Undefeated seasons and national championships have been part of the equation.

Paul Krebs, the former athletic director at Bowling Green, was the person who gave Meyer his big break, laying the foundation for the past 12 years. Former head coach Gary Blackney informed Krebs before the 2000 season ended that it would be his last, giving the young A.D. an opportunity to scour the nation for up-and-coming assistants.

Krebs only had to venture 165 miles west, to South Bend, Ind., to find Blackney’s replacement. It took all of one interview with the baby-faced 36-year-old wide receivers coach from Notre Dame for Krebs to realize Meyer was a rare coaching talent.

“I don’t know that you ever know someone is going to be a star, but what I observed during the interview process was someone who was incredibly prepared and incredibly thorough in his preparation,” said Krebs, now the A.D. at New Mexico. “He was more prepared than any other candidate we interviewed and was the youngest and least experienced. He had a creative way to compete and his ideas on offense were unique at the time. We struggled with the age part. But clearly he was the best candidate for the job.”

That’s been the case at every landing spot since – Meyer as the best man for the job. Fans have revered him while players describe him as a lifelong friend and father figure.

“I learned a ton from him, not just football, but how to represent yourself,” said Dennis Wendel, a two-year starter on the offensive line at Bowling Green. “I have a ton of respect for the guy.”

Meyer has been no stranger to controversy, though, and with the recent spate of arrests at Ohio State, questions about discipline, something that was part of Meyer’s tenure at Florida, have cropped up again.

But while media and opponents’ fans jeer him, those close to him, former players included, swear by him. The contrasting images are akin to the public opinion of Bob Knight.

“I was struck by the fact that he was so driven and so committed to being successful and developing young men,” Krebs said of Meyer. “He spent a lot of time and a lot of energy with guys away from the field talking about what it meant to be a man, what it meant to be a responsible citizen and what it means to be a father. I always thought he was so focused on the development of the individuals, as well as the collective team. He cared about his players.”

Meyer’s personality developed in the Rust Belt city of Ashtabula, tucked in the far reaches of Northeast Ohio along the shores of Lake Erie. The blue-collar town is a melting pot of nationalities that preaches a tough work ethic. So, too, did Meyer’s father, Bud.

At a young age, Bud instilled the importance of hard work into Meyer. It took hold and Meyer developed into a leader on the high school athletic fields both during the season and offseason. As a senior, he was named a captain on the football team – he wore No. 45 because Archie Griffin was his favorite player – in large part due to his go-getter attitude.

“We’d be out doing high school stuff and Urban would be in the weight room,” longtime friend Tom Penna said. “He was like, ‘Get in here.’ We’d be like, ‘Get out of here, we’re not lifting weights.’ It would be before practice or after practice, he didn’t care. But it was only because he wanted to win.”

Not much has changed over the past three decades.

“The thing that Urban did was he brought perspective,” said Morgan Scalley, a captain on Utah’s 2004 Fiesta Bowl team and currently the Utes’ safeties coach and recruiting coordinator. “At our first team meeting he told us about only eight teams in the country do everything the right way – offense, defense, special teams and the way they act off the field – and we’re going to be one of those teams. A lot of guys in that room thought who is this guy kidding. But he established a sense of confidence.”

Meyer’s career spanned 15 years before he became a head coach, during which he apprenticed under Earle Bruce, Sonny Lubick, Lou Holtz and Bob Davie. It was as an assistant that Meyer’s legendary long hour days began. Outworking him became impossible.

“If you did something that contributed to the team he made you feel like a million bucks.”

That commitment to the job is expected of the staff and players. For the 2013 Buckeyes, “The Chase” may as well be a synonymous for hard work. In truth, it references the trail to college football’s mountaintop. Meyer, the coaching staff and the 100-plus players who don Scarlet and Gray each Saturday are aware of the challenges that await, making accomplishments all the more enjoyable.

“He’s a master motivator,” Scalley said. “If you did something that contributed to the team he made you feel like a million bucks. He would take a special teams player and make him feel like the MVP of the team because of the contributions he was making. He had guys relish their role.

“What did he get his degree in? Psychology. He uses it well. He knows how to find what you’re looking for and turns it on.”

Said Krebs: “The time he spent on leadership and teambuilding really struck me. I’d never seen a coach spent so much time trying to create a sense of unity and family around the team.”

Any coach will tell you the foundation of every championship team begins with leadership. With fewer than two weeks until fall camp commences, Meyer is desperate for leaders to step up amid the current disorder. When leaders emerge and a message is responded to, confidence builds.

When a talented roster with good coaches starts moving, it can become a boulder charging downhill quickly. It just so happens that Meyer is on track for that type of production once again – in his second season.

It’s no coincidence according to those who have experienced the improved results. Changing the course of a locker room does not happen immediately nor does grooming a dual-threat quarterback to fit the specifications of Meyer’s offense. It’s the when, though, that keeps opposing coaches awake at night, staring at their ceiling. 

“It’s hard to implement his complete change of culture in just a year,” Wendel said. “That first year there still a feeling out process between players and coaches, and him and his assistant coaches. But once it clicks it turns into a well-oiled machine.”

“People saw results and bought in. He brought discipline to the program,” said Scalley.

With a season of great expectations rocked by turmoil, Meyer’s discipline and leadership are needed now more than ever.



Jugdish's picture

Urban has made a believer out of me. I think OSU is in for some great football teams. His discipline while in Florida has been closely scrutinized. I think that is because his teams were great and Florida is still butt-hurt for him leaving. Any person can poke fun at Urban and OSU, but we are going to have the last laugh.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

SilverState's picture

I really enjoy and appreciate these pieces that "go behind the scenes."

Kaceybrown's picture

Good article. I hope Meyer stays for a very long time. 

Oldschoolbuck's picture

A BGSU football player who played his last two seasons under UFM told me the difference between Urbz and EVERY other coach he ever had was "night and day". He said UFM would convince his team they could "run through a wall".
If a player worked his a** off for Urban, there was nothing he wouldn't do for the kid, even if he wasn't a starter. Maybe the rumors about "favorites" come from guys that wouldn't measure up or were lazy...

Hovenaut's picture

Good write up.

Nice to read/hear some actual substance about Urban Meyer for a change. Well done, Kyle.


We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

Bucks13's picture

Go Urban and go bucks!

pjtobin's picture

Very good read. Thank you very much. It was said nobody worked as hard as also. What a great coach UFM is. I'm glad he is here. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

XUbuckeye's picture

Good read. I'll be the first to say I was a little skeptical when Meyer was hired. I had heard all the stories about his team's off the field issues and the 41-14 memory didn't sit well with me either. But boy did my tune change after seeing all of the media bytes of him, but the ESPN all access series really sealed the deal. It's hard not to get behind a guy that is that intense about everything he does, keep up the great work Coach!

"So when you get knocked on your butt, get up, get over it, and then next time, kick their ass." - Woody Hayes 

droessl's picture

Watching his presentation at the Ohio High School Coaches meeting last year completely sold me on him. Not that I wasn't happy as a pig in shit when he was hired, but seeing his preparation and passion for all things Ohio, football, and Ohio State football had ME wanting to run through a damn wall. 

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Does anyone else think Urban looks like Christian Bale in certain pics?  Weird I know.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

droessl's picture

Now I have to go listen to Bale's rant.  So much for productivity! 

buckeyeEddie27's picture

on that note how bout Homer Bailey for the Reds.   Dead ringer imo

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

MassiveAttack's picture

Sorry bro, I don't see it.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Really?  Christian Bale and Homer Bailey?  nothin?    
:(    [ hangs head in shame] 

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Red Shirt Ensign's picture

Off topic but the White polo in the pic that UFM is wearing,...  I like it and want to get one, anyone know where to find that one?  tried a few places so far no luck

"Captain, over here, I've found someth... AHHHH!!!!!!"


scarpenter614's picture

I think that's an older one.  The new one's have a smaller scarlet stripe.  I want the ones with the football helmet on the front but I'm pretty sure those are official to the team only.  
As a guy going from absolutely hating UFM to him now being "hero" status, I can understand all the hate from anyone outside of Columbus.  The only other thing, which I understand but don't agree with, is the hate from Florida fans.  If we win 2 NCs in the next 5 years and then he leaves to go coach at Notre Dame or something, there's still no way I could hate him.  Guaranteed we don't win 2 NCs in the next 5 years with any other coach but him or maybe Saban.  I feel like it's the ex-girlfriend / LeBron thing where you love somebody so much as a coach or player because of what they do for your team, and then you see them doing that for someone else or another team and you want them to fail miserably.  I get it, but I'd like to think I wouldn't be that way with UFM.  All of that being said, part of the reason he has been a hero for me is because he is so open and blunt in the media, he has kind of helped me in the way I approach my job.  I work in a local pediatric healthcare organization and everyday I think, "am I giving this my all and if I'm not, why not" and constantly look for ways to make this organization the best in America.  I never thought that way before Urban came to town.  Now part of giving this job my all is not spending too much time on 11w so I guess I better get back to work!  Go Bucks!

northwest_buckeye's picture

I've got one. It's from a few years ago... Maybe even during Fickell's time at the helm. I think Fickell always wore the black version of that shirt. It has a little metal emblem on the left sleeve, and a metal swoosh-embossed button as either the top or bottom one for the collar.

I've never said I 'hate' anyone because that would imply I had any emotion for them whatsoever.

TMac's picture

Love that Urban has had expectations placed upon him at Bowling Green - that he exceeded; at Utah - that he exceeded; at Florida - that he exceeded; and still being undefeated, he's ahead of schedule at tOSU, with a B1G expectation for this season....keep it going Urban!!
Go Bucks!!

ONE Not Done!

northwest_buckeye's picture

I went to BGSU during UFM's time there. I can tell all of you, first hand, he cares greatly about what his players do during their off time. I remember hanging out on the steps of the education building with a few friends who were on the team. I had just come out of a class in the BA building (just across from the Edu building), and at that moment, Urban ran by in just a long sleeve t-shirt and those super-short runners shorts. It was about 35 degrees that day. My two buddies said, "We gotta run. Coach can't see us doing nothing while we're on campus. He'll be pissed." Urban then went up to a group of his players who were just hanging out, laying on the steps, laughing and bs-ing like college kids do every day. He began to lay into them about "being at the library, the gym, or in class... Don't just be sitting around on MY campus looking like bums. Be productive, otherwise, go hang out at home." Couldn't believe my eyes.

My friends were two bench warmers who had the sense to get outta dodge if UFM was lurking. I forget the exact phrase they used, but something along the lines of "No one loafs on his team... On or off the field." That always stuck with me.

I've never said I 'hate' anyone because that would imply I had any emotion for them whatsoever.

Estrada's picture

I was at BGSU during that time frame as well; but was a graduate student so I never had the pleasure of running into any players or Urbz himself (as 98% of my time was spent in the Life Sciences building).
Thanks for the anecdote!

ScarletGray43157's picture

He has had success at every stop along the way.  Whenever you see that, the individual in question has their talents and drive lined up well with their chosen profession.

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

45has2's picture

If the latest reports about Hyde are correct, UFM can use El Guapo as the perfect example. "See men, 34 did the right thing, he walked away from trouble."
I love hearing Granny Holtz tell the story about Urb telling him BGSU offered him the HC position but it wasn't a very good job. Lou told him: "Of course it isn't a good job, if it was they wouldn't be offering it to you."

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

Buckabroad's picture

Man, am I grateful that Meyer is our coach. Really disappointed to see the OSU haters repeated attempts to defame him. It is atrocious and awful, but it does show that the ESPN/SEC/cesspool of twitter trolls community fears the juggernaut Meyer may well fashion OSU into in the near future.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Ashtabula's picture

Perfect piece on Urban. He has always been driven. Some of the stories about him in little league and high school are legendary around his hometown.