Baron Browning sat in class at Kennedale High School in Texas, minding his own business. Then his phone vibrated with a text message from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
“Call me when you're with your mom,” Meyer wrote.
A little concerned, Browning went to the office where his mother, DeKisha, serves as assistant principal. A few moments later, the five-star linebacker thought the man that convinced him to head north to Ohio State for college was no longer going to be there.
“I went to meet her right quick and called him, she puts the phone on speaker and he says 'Hey, what's up, Baron?' It was right when the Rams had fired Jeff Fisher,” Browning said on Wednesday. “He said 'I'm just calling to let you know the LA Rams have offered me the job and I'm gonna take it.
“I'm just sitting there and looking and my mouth just dropped. I didn't even know what to say. I was just speechless.”
Meyer, of course, was joking. But Browning didn't know what to do for two faithful minutes where his palms began to sweat and questions flooded his brain.
“I'm just sitting there, not saying anything and he says, 'Hello?' I'm just mad, I'm just listening,” Browning said. “He asked, 'You there?' Few minutes pass and he said, 'I'm just messing with you.'
“I wasn't laughing, though.”
Perhaps the worst part is Browning's mom knew Meyer planned this prank the whole time. It served as retribution for a stunt Browning pulled on Nov. 30, a day before he told the world that he planned to be a Buckeye. He informed Meyer, the Ohio State coaching staff and a few others he intended to commit to Alabama.
“I was undecided that night and then the next day I made up my mind. My parents just said please tell us before you tweet it out and stuff,” Browning said. “The coach from Alabama was still trying to do some recruiting. I already knew I was coming here but just felt like messing around. I like cracking jokes, having fun.
“So I told my parents that I was going to Alabama. I told Coach Meyer and Coach [Luke] Fickell, I was like, 'Thank you for everything you've done for me but I roll with the Tide. Roll Tide.' It was just funny at the time.”
Meyer didn't think so. He knew he was getting word from one of the crown jewels in his recruiting class that day but was not pleased with what he saw when his phone went lit up.
“I was over at a friend's,” Meyer said on Wednesday. “And I remember looking, I leaned over, I said here it comes. Boom. I look down, and I can't remember if he called or sent me a text, and he said, I'm going to roll with Bama or something — I took my phone and threw it against the damn wall.”
Browning then sent a tweet that he would be heading to Ohio State, which he did a month later and enrolled early. He described the trick as something he didn't plan, that it just "happened in the moment." Only Meyer his former assistants Fickell and Tim Beck — who led in the recruitment for Browning — didn't check Twitter.
“[Meyer], Coach Fickell and Beck was confused. I think when I texted Coach Fickell, he was with Coach Beck in Las Vegas on a visit with the Martells,” Browning said. “Tate had to throw them his phone to show him because they were still mind-boggled, I guess.”
Browning's father called Meyer to congratulate him and talk about his son's future at Ohio State. Only Meyer didn't know what was going on.
“When he called them, [Meyer] was like confused and said 'What do you mean? He's going to Alabama,'” Browning said. “So my dad had to break it down to him and he said, 'Oh my gosh, don't ever do that again.'”
Turns out, Meyer knows how to flip the script and get back at anyone with a joke of his own.
“He got me back. I see how he felt. I was really more so mad because my mom was in on it too,” Browning said. “I just said 'Woooooow.' But I guess I had that coming, though. Payback. He said, 'Don't ever do that to me again.'”
“He cried,” Meyer said.