By Fritz Nelson, editor-in-chief at Grow Wire
Urban Meyer is incredibly serious. So serious, that even when he’s being funny, he’s downright resolute.
And yes, he is funny. You don’t reach the pinnacle of success, as Meyer has, without the ability to weaponize wit or understand the power of a good story.
He teased Kendall Fisher, Grow Wire’s podcast producer and host of “The Grow Wire Show,” about her beloved USC’s football travails lately, and this amid rumors that the Trojans would name Meyer coach after the season. He was obviously having some fun with us, his mind games making us wonder if -- could it be? -- he would actually be joining us in L.A. some day soon. Shortly after, USC announced it was holding on to its current coach.
As we chatted off mic before and after one of the most enjoyable podcasts I’ve experienced, Meyer told us that “Big Noon Kickoff,” the college football pre-game show on Fox, had finally beaten ESPN’s pre-game show in viewership. He said it as if he’d just beaten Michigan for the Big Ten conference championship, only you could actually see the glee in his face.
Urban Meyer, national championship-winning former college football coach, records " The Grow Wire Podcast"
Watching Meyer who, who like other elite coaches that infamously skulk on sidelines and in dealings with the press (see: Alabama’s Nick Saban, New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, San Antonio Spurs’ Greg Popovich), often left me wondering whether he was ever having a good time. I asked him on this podcast. His answer will tell you as much as you probably need to know about the mentality of someone at the very top of a profession.
This is a coach who first built successful programs at the most unlikely of places -- Bowling Green and then Utah. Utah, up until the last weekend of the college football season, was in the hunt for one of four playoff spots for the national championship. Fifteen years after Meyer left that program, it is still competitive. (Bowling Green was 5-6 in 1999 and 2-9 in 2000. Meyer arrived in 2001, and the Green Falcons finished the season 8-3.)
Meyer went on to coach the Florida Gators to two national championships before returning “home” to Ohio State -- he grew up in Cleveland, OH -- where his teams regularly competed for the national championship, winning one in 2014. The coach retired at the end of last season for personal reasons that he’s been quite open about, and yet this year’s team is the odds-on favorite to win it all again.
In other words, Meyer builds a blueprint and culture of excellence that sets college football programs up for long-term success, even after he’s gone. We talked in great detail about how he does this as well.
As Meyer has sought personal-professional balance in his life along with pursuing new endeavors, like teaching in the classroom, mentoring coaches in all sports as an assistant athletic director at Ohio State and trading barbs and strategy with the likes of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinert on television, he has learned and evolved. But at his core he remains the man you think he’d be.
Meyer (center), Kendall and I with Meyer after our podcast recording
Later that night, Kendall interviewed Meyer on stage at a private gathering. After our podcast, he had expressed how impressed he was with my interviewing skills, saying (teasingly?) to Kendall that he would rather I interview him on stage. After Kendall interviewed him, Meyer told her privately that she was slightly better than me, and Kendall and I argued late into the night about the veracity of what he’d said to each of us.
In other words, it was as if Meyer had purposely pitted us against each other in an internal competition for who would be the equivalent of his starting quarterback. Bar raised.
Stay tuned for Kendall’s video interview and other content from our evening with Urban Meyer on Grow Wire’s social channels.