Here’s a glowing Bruce Feldman piece about what keeps Urban Meyer up at night.
Marotti says that in the early years of his Ohio State tenure, Meyer would return from vacation armed with ideas to help make his guys better football players. Now, Meyer is consumed with finding ways to help his players better navigate what the head coach sees as a very volatile world around them.
“It’s probably 80–20 now,” Meyer says, explaining where his focus lies between real-world issues and football-related matters. “When I was younger, it was probably 30–70 more football.
“This is a topic of conversation among my colleagues in the profession now. It’s constant now. Fifteen years ago, no. Back then it was, Tell me about the spread offense. Tell me about punt return. Now it’s about the mental and well-being of your players.”
This, of course, begs the obvious question: what took you so long?
When Meyer now talks about his responsibility as a coach to educate players, he has stories from his past to back up his philosophy. One of the names that comes up is Avery Atkins, the highest-ranked recruit in Meyer’s first signing class at Florida: “Could’ve been a first-rounder. Pushes a girl. I kick him off the team. The streets take him over in Daytona.” Atkins was found dead from a drug overdose in his car in the summer before Meyer’s third season at Florida, and Meyer beat himself up for years, wondering if he could’ve helped Atkins had he remained around the program longer.
“I lived with that for three or four years thinking, ‘Wait a minute, we lost this kid on our watch,’” he says. “That’s when we started giving kids second, third and fourth chances. I would not get rid of a kid, and it bit us a little bit.“I went 20 years in my career and never really had stuff like that. I was convinced at the time that if he’d have stayed in our program, we would’ve gotten him right, and how do you ever let that happen on your watch? Tim Tebow and I used to talk about that all the time, and he looked at me and said, ‘We did everything we could. You can’t hold that on your heart.’ But it was an accumulation of those events and thinking, ‘This is serious business now. This is not flunking a class or missing a class. This is real life.’”