Even though it'd been days since Raekwon McMillan and Johnnie Dixon officially pledged their allegiances to Ohio State on a pair of cold afternoons in December, Urban Meyer wore a smile so wide and so bright you’d have thought he just became a father for the first time.
But this moment was big, too. And Meyer knew it.
“It makes the food taste better,” he said.
“It gains momentum in recruiting. It's awesome. It makes everyone feel great.”
Because the Buckeyes had landed two of the nation’s best recruits. They’d taken a step toward securing the future of a program that’s yearning to win conference and national championships again.
And at a place like Ohio State, the path toward a true place among college football’s elite again begins and ends with recruiting.
SI.com’s Pete Thamel put it like this in a Sept. 2013 story:
“At every meeting throughout the day, the din of vibrating cellphones provided background noise. Recruiting never stops at Ohio State, as coaches would see a call pop up -- either from a high school coach or a player -- and duck out of the meeting room to answer it.
When assistants would get a player on the phone, they'd hand him off to Meyer, who frequently stopped meetings to have a chat with a prospect. He ended one call memorably: "Don't bet against the Buckeyes this year." Then he stopped himself and smiled, "Well, actually, don't bet at all."
From flaunting NBA megastar and avid Buckeyes fan LeBron James to the carefully curated choice of words Meyer and assistants use when talking to the media to social media to night games to fireworks to alternative jerseys, recruiting is everything and everything is recruiting.
It never ends.
“I think recruiting is a 365-day process at Ohio State,” cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs said in September.
“There's not a day that goes by that we don't talk about, focus on and participate in some recruiting active ties here … I won't say it's unique, but I would say there are very few programs anywhere that recruit as hard or as often as we do.”
Friday Nights Lights is a loud and clear reminder of that.
While Ohio State gears up for Big Ten media days, fall camp and a tricky season opener against Navy Aug. 30 in Baltimore, recruiting takes a backseat to nothing and no one.
Not now, not during the season, not during the spring.
Thanks to social media and a powerful and ever-bloating niche following it, recruiting is nonstop, 24/7 warfare. To take a day off is to fall a step behind.
And the Buckeyes, of course, have long been armed with the means to fight. But it starts with Meyer and his insatiable hunger, the kind that “makes the food taste better.” He's Ohio State's biggest weapon.
“I frankly think our head coach is one of the best recruiters that I've ever seen anywhere and he is constantly a source of information for us,” Coombs said.
Friday Night Lights is Meyer's invention, after all. It's his baby. That's why he shipped it from Gainesville up to Columbus. It works.
It’s meant to set a foundation. It’s meant to leave an impression. It’s meant to wow you.
Friday Night Lights is a statement and a reminder of how Meyer and his staff so wholeheartedly put everything they have into recruiting.
Because in a college football where everything's an arms race, they have no other choice.