For weeks there were rumors about his hiring. Then on Nov. 28, Ohio State officially introduced Urban Meyer as its head coach.
But in the players' eyes, Meyer did not arrive until Jan. 2, the day after the Gator Bowl. Make that the morning after - a 6 a.m. meeting.
“As soon as he walked in, everyone sat up in their chair,” defensive end John Simon recalled. “The respect he commands, I'd never seen that before. He told us how it would be.”
Fullback Zach Boren described the 45-minute session as “an intense talk.”
“You knew he meant business and that everything would change - and change for the better,” Boren said.
Two years ago, change was unthinkable. Jim Tressel was embarking on his sixth Big Ten title over a nine-year span that featured an 8-1 record against Michigan. But Ohio State used ineligible players and Tressel lied about it, resulting in a whitewash of the 2010 season and Meyer's return.
Meyer was born in Toledo, grew up in Ashtabula, played defensive back at Cincinnati and began his college coaching career under Earle Bruce at Ohio State.
Some deep roots.
“I'm seeing people I had not seen in 30 years,” he said.
Meyer, 48, coaches every game as if it's his last on earth. He makes Bob Knight seem mellow.
During an ESPN all-access look into his program, he barked at his players: “You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team.”
Angry after their first seven-loss season since 1897. And angrier, perhaps, about NCAA sanctions that will prevent them from playing in the postseason.
“He has a senior class wondering: Everybody is talking about the future, but what about us?” said ESPN analyst and former Buckeyes quarterback Kirk Herbstreit.
“His appeal will be: Let's make this the best we can. Everyone will (one day) be celebrating Urban Meyer's championship year. We want to be the class that people look back to and say: Without this foundation, we wouldn't be where we are today. That's the legacy these seniors want to leave.”
Meyer faltered in his final season at Florida as the Gators went 8-5 and hid disciplinary problems within the team.
But Ohio State players point to his first five years in Gainesville - a 57-10 record and two national titles.
“When we were in high school, he was the icon of college football,” Boren said. “He was the Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes of the time. He had the ‘it' factor. He still has it. We know we have to buy into his system because it will pay off in the long run.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services