Terry McLaurin didn’t recognize the number that was calling him two Monday nights ago, but when he picked up the phone, he heard a familiar voice.
Urban Meyer was on the other end of the line, asking McLaurin if he and fellow fifth-year senior wide receiver Parris Campbell could come into his office for an impromptu meeting.
“To be honest, at first, I didn't even recognize the number because he may have got a new number on me,” McLaurin said. “But he called me in, and he wanted Parris to come by, and I didn't really know what it was about at first.”
Once they arrived in his office, however, Meyer told McLaurin and Campbell what he would ultimately tell the rest of his team and the rest of the world the next day – that he would retire as Ohio State’s head football coach after the Rose Bowl.
“It was pretty straightforward,” McLaurin said. “He went through the things of his health being his first No. 1 concern, and when he looks at some of the things that could possibly go on if he continues at this rate, you don't want to go through that. Especially when he has grandchildren, children and a wife to worry about. He seemed content in his decision.”
Early the next morning, Meyer broke the news in a team meeting with all of his players that he would stepping down and that Ryan Day would be taking over as head coach next month.
Some players weren’t surprised by the news they heard.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” said defensive tackle Davon Hamilton. “Throughout the season, he was just not himself, or what he was before. So I wasn’t very surprised by it. I kind of knew he was going to retire, or whatever. And it kind of made sense why Coach Day was our interim coach for that short amount of time for the beginning of the season. It kind of just put everything together.”
To other players, however, the news caught them more off-guard.
“It was a surprise team meeting, and we were supposed to talk about the bowl schedule,” said wide receiver Chris Olave. “So we all went in there and he announced it, and we were all shocked. It was a day that we all kind of got each other’s backs.”
But while some players saw Meyer’s announcement last week coming and others were caught by surprise, every player who was asked about his retirement on Wednesday said they understood why he made that decision and supported it, recognizing that Meyer’s health – specifically, headaches caused by an enlarged arachnoid cyst in his brain – had hindered his ability to continue coaching.
“I was a little surprised, I was shocked, but I understand where he is coming from,” right tackle Isaiah Prince said. “He has to do what is best for him. And I know Coach Meyer loves us, so I support him in any way possible.”
“When he looks at some of the things that could possibly go on if he continues at this rate, you don't want to go through that. Especially when he has grandchildren, children and a wife to worry about.”– Terry McLaurin on Urban Meyer's decision to retire
Running back Mike Weber said Meyer has seemed more relaxed around the team since he made his announcement.
“You can see it,” Weber said. “He’s got a smile on his face, coming around here in a good mood, just feeling like he did what he could for this program. He did a hell of job, and I’m proud of what he has done for me and my family, and I wish him the best.”
Considering that they were all recruited to Ohio State by Meyer, and are all on the team at least in part because of him, it wasn’t easy for the Buckeyes to see Meyer step down. For those who will be back in Columbus next year, though, it softens the blow knowing that Day – who they’ve already had the opportunity to build a relationship with over his past two seasons as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and for the first three games of this season, acting head coach – will be the new leader of the program.
“It was kind of lifting a weight off our shoulders, having coach Day for the first three games as our head coach,” Olave said. “We know how he is, and we know how it’s going to be around here, it’s probably going to be the same. So there’s probably going to be no letdown, it’s going to be fun, so can’t wait.”
Many players, including defensive tackle Robert Landers, talked Wednesday about the impact that Meyer has personally had on their lives.
“We appreciate him for everything he’s done here, and the template that he’s put together for Coach Day and the culture and the tradition that he’s built here,” Landers said. “So it’s just one of those things where I’m proud of everything that he’s done. I appreciate him for everything that he’s done. And I couldn’t ask for a better coach and a better person to go through my first four years here with.”
The two players on the team who have perhaps the closest relationships with Meyer, though, are McLaurin and Campbell – the only two multi-year captains on the team – and both of them said they were honored that Meyer chose to consult with them personally before announcing his decision to everyone else.
“To be called in for something like that, me and Terry actually talked about it after, we were just like ‘Wow, out of all people, he called us to present that decision,’ and it speaks volumes in our relationship,” Campbell said. “So I appreciate him for that.”