Updated on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer appeared on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on Tuesday and discussed, among other topics, what ultimately led to him deciding to depart the Florida Gators – first after the 2009 season and then for good at the conclusion of the 2010 campaign.
“I thought I was dying,” Meyer said in the taped interview. “Absolutely [I was depressed]. Mentally, I was broke.”
Meyer tells a tale of stress and depression, explaining that he dropped a significant amount of weight (37 pounds) while self-medicating in order to simply go to sleep at night while the head coach at Florida.
“Now I’m taking two Ambiens. I would drink a beer on top of it, just to get some sleep. Not many people know that,” he said. “And I go from 217 pounds to 180 pounds. I lose 37 pounds…and we’re undefeated.”
Meyer also recounted incidents that have already been quite well-publicized, explaining how he locked himself in an office in Sun Life Stadium just minutes after the Gators won the 2009 BCS Championship – in order to recruit players – and felt what he believed to be serious chest pains after Florida fell to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship.
“The [doctors in the hospital] said, ‘We don’t believe it was a heart attack.’ So, OK, ‘Well, what is it?’ ‘We don’t know,’” Meyer remembered, “And then you start thinking, ‘There is something wrong with me mentally, you know? What is going on here?’”
The reason for all of this angst?
“I was addicted to winning,” he said. “You build this thing up and it’s hard to sustain.”
Meyer also discussed changing his mind and returning the Gators just 24 hours after his first resignation: “Probably [I chose work over my family]. I’m not very proud of that.”
As far as his year off?
“I was kind of living the life. But deep in my heart, I felt the burning sensation to go back.”
So what’s different now with the Buckeyes?
“It’s easy. I focus on my players. That’s it. When I do shut it down, I shut it down completely. And I wasn’t able to do that before,” he explained. “Can you win a national championship doing that? Absolutely you can.”
As journalist Andrea Kremer quickly noted in the piece: “That remains to be seen.”
Update: HBO released an “extras” video with Meyer and his wife, Shelley Meyer, in which they discuss Florida players being arrested dozens of times as well as their thoughts on Aaron Hernandez then and now.