Redshirt junior running back Mike Weber sees a difference in Urban Meyer as Ohio State prepares for the Rose Bowl against Washington.
“He’s got a smile on his face, coming around in a good mood just feeling like he did what he could for this program,” Weber said. “Usually he’s real serious about stuff. It was good to see him smile and stuff for a change.”
Ohio State players could see that their head coach, after announcing his retirement on Dec. 4, has had a weight off his shoulders, that Meyer is more relaxed as he approaches the final game of his 33-year coaching career.
But that did not mean Meyer’s decision was to be expected.
Junior safety Jordan Fuller said when Meyer called the meeting, it was to meet about the schedule for the bowl practices.
When Meyer made the announcement to the team, along with offensive coordinator and incoming head coach Ryan Day and athletic director Gene Smith, Fuller said the room was silent.
“We were honestly caught off guard,” Fuller said. “It was kind of a sad moment because you know how much he wants to be there for us and how much we love him, too.”
Meyer said his health was a factor in his decision to depart from the football program, something Fuller said was obvious, noting the head coach was not “totally himself” during the 2018 season.
To redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who, alongside redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell, met with the head coach to discuss his retirement before he made his decision public, Meyer was content with his decision to end his coaching career, especially with the amount of effort he puts into every rep, every down.
McLaurin described Meyer as tedious, something he said Meyer refers to as a “disease” at points. The redshirt senior said the head coach made sure that the team is prepared, has every play, every call to a tee prior to Saturday to allow the Buckeyes to play fast.
On the sidelines, McLaurin said Meyer brings this level of intensity, something he has always had, something that is iconic.
“Every play is almost like a life or death play. It’s part of the game that he clings to,” McLaurin said. “That part he brings to the game is like no other.”
Even with change on the mind of many, senior offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said the atmosphere around the program is not sad, it’s not depressing. It’s thankful.
“I think it is a little emotional because coach Meyer has done a lot for us, especially me,” Prince said. “I am forever grateful for him but I think a lot of us have the attitude to just go out with a bang and send coach Meyer out the right way.”
Ohio State now has added motivation for its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2010. With Meyer coaching in his last game, the players want to send him out, the coach who has led the Buckeyes to a record of 82-9 in his seven seasons in Columbus, the coach who led Ohio State to its eighth national championship, on the right note.
Meyer has the chance, in Pasadena, California, to cap off what many might consider as one of the best careers a college football coach has ever had in the sport’s history.
“Most coaches get the boot out of places. He was blessed to leave the way he did,” redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said. “That’s why he’s considered one of the best college football coaches ever.”