Urban Meyer at Florida: “I thought I was dying.”

By Adam Silverstein
September 23, 2014

Updated on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Photo Credit: ESPN Images

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.

32 Comments

  1. Dave Massey says:

    BS lies. He couldn’t handle playing with the big boys. It doesn’t seem to affect coaches like Saban, Miles, and Spurrier like he claims.

    The thing that is easy is his schedule. He likes being a minor league coach in the big ton conference.

    The bucknuts will never win a NC with the new playoff system. Nobody from that conference will be good enough against the other P5 top teams.

    • Sharon M says:

      Perhaps winning isn’t everything. He was having anxiety attacks which is a sign his life was out of balance. He made the right decision even if he isn’t a t ough coach.

      At the end of your life there is only love a nd everything else is significant. Who is going to care in 74 years who won the national championship.

      • Dave Massey says:

        Winning is not the issue. It is about the lack of discipline he had, all the arrests, and all the lies he told. He was taking the program down with him. I don’t care if he wanted to leave, I’m glad he is gone. He was a train wreck waiting to happen. The bucknuts can have him.

        The guy was paid something like four or five million dollars a year, you would think that he would expect high pressure and expectations.

        You write like you just woke up from a coma from the sixties.

  2. W2 says:

    Nothing bad to say about Meyer he help put us back on the national radar,2 national championships, and a ton of recruits. He didn’t leave cause UF was going on probation or sanctions or a 4 and whatever season. Go Gators.

    • Dave Massey says:

      He recruited a bunch of thugs and set records for player arrests. Where would he have been without Tebow? Is that really the price you want to pay for success? You might want to take those rose colored glasses off.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Here here, well said. I second this.

      Others in this thread seem a little hurt in the rear end about him.

      • g8ter27 says:

        I don’t like how he left us any more than the rest of the Gator Nation. But I would sure as hell rather have him coaching us right now than Muschamp.

        • Sharon M says:

          Surrier di not leave in a good way either and no fans hate him. Meyer won TWO nat’l championships and of course there was Tebow. Glory Days.

          • Dave Massey says:

            Spurrier always made it clear he wanted to try the NFL, I don’t know what you mean by he didn’t leave on good terms. I have no problem with the way he left. It didn’t work out in Washington for him, he wanted to return to Florida, Florida didn’t want him, so he went to South Carolina. He’ll always be the Head Ball Coach to me.

            It’s not all about winning, it’s about winning right.

    • Dave Massey says:

      W2,

      Meyer was 7-6 in his last year and that was not against a very strong schedule. I hope we are not going to make a distinction between 7-6 and 4-8, both are unacceptable. The program was spiraling out of control and Meyer knew it and that is why he bailed. His ego couldn’t handle it. Then he lied, then he lied some more, and now he is still lying.

      He was fortunate enough to have some great assistants and when they left he was exposed as the poor coach that he really is. The 2006 NC team was predominantly Zook recruits. His former players continually have isssues with the law or behavior, Hernandez, Rainey, the Pounceys, McDonald, etc. He is a poor example for his players.

      If you and boi think that the short term success was worth the damage he did to the football program and the reputation of the University of Florida that is not an opinion I share. And from reading the other comments on this post I don’t think I am in the minority of people who feel that way. He may have put us on the national radar but he just as quickly shot us down like a ton of cruise missiles.

      Let him go coach the bucknuts and screw up their program. He is a snake that can’t change skins, it’s just a matter of time. He even admitted he used to keep a bucknut in his pocket when he was coaching here, so where do you this two face guy had his mind?

      I’d much rather have somebody like Muschamp as coach, he is running a clean program and doesn’t take nonsense and cover it up like the liar did. Just wish he was a better coach. The loss to Bama sucks but it was not unexpected, they are probably the best team we will face this year, if not the best team in the country. And yes I do think they are better than half ass u. Meyer would have fit in real well there too. If Muschamp doesn’t get things turned around really quick he will be gone soon and we can just move on to somebody else.

      • Jesse Ven-Johnson says:

        If you’s rather have Muschamp than Meyer, you are stupid. Meyer gave us 2 of our 2 national championships, what has Muschamp given us? Complaining about recruiting is also stupid. You think Meyer didn’t recruit like everyone else? Meyer was great. Fans like you are disgusting. BTW, I’m a Florida grad. You?

        • Dave Massey says:

          I am a Florida grad, I have two degrees, one in criminal justice and a masters in business administration. You must be a graduate of the Brooklyn satellite campus. ‘you’s’, really? 2 out of 2 national championships. You can’t even count to three, and you call me stupid? You are disgustingly ignorant if you really are a Florida grad. I said I would rather have someone like Muschamp than Meyer. Meyer left a stain on the program. The amount of record arrests by players under Meyer is a well documented fact. I am no lover of Muschamp’s lack of accomplishments.

          I don’t understand why you have such a problem with me not liking Meyer, from the comments I read from other Gator fans I don’t seem to be the only one much less a minority. I don’t have a problem with you liking the guy, I just don’t share your opinion. To call me stupid considering your comment really makes you look sad.

          • Sharon M says:

            Ye whoever you want.

            But perhaps you can appreciat that Meyer(with Tebow) gave us TWO national championships.
            Don’t get stuck in your own negativity.

            Whatever you or I think it is ust one person’r opinion and thus subjectve. It does not reresent reality.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      I’m with you W2 and many others who have no ill will towards Meyer at all! Frankly, Assey doesn’t now what he’s talking about & can’t even get his facts straight (he never went 7-6 and McDonald was a Zook recruit). I work for Shands/UF Health & (not to break any HIPAA laws) it’s a fact he had some serious health issues when he came in. In fact, (not to get into any specificis) a nurse who was treating him told me he was “in bad shape”. All Meyer did was work his rear end off (literally!), sign loads of 5-star guys (Tebow, Harvin, Haden, Spikes Dunlap, the Pouncey’s, Elam, Floyd, Easley, Jenkins to name a few), & win 13 games in 3 of his first 5 seasons here including 2 NC’s. Sure, some other 5-stars (Hernandez, Rainey, Jenkins) turned out to be great players who were bad apples but who knew that when they were seniors in HS & EVERY OTHER top school in the country went after them. While here, according to ESPN, his recruiting classes ranked #1 in 2006, #2 in 2007, #4 in 2008, #5 in 2009, & #1 in 2010 so the cupboard was far from bare for Muschamp. It’s been pointed out many times on this site, Muschamps 2012 team was led by Meyer recruits (Floyd, Easley, Elam, Jenkins, Bostic, Evans, Gillislee, Reed)

      If you ever spoke to Meyer (which I did many times at Gator gatherings) his Midwestern roots came out. He’s Ohio born & bred through & through. He was the the obvious, no brainer choice for Foley back in 2004 & as a Gators fan feel lucky he came! I’m not so certain he wouldn’t still be in broadcasting had the whol situation with Tressel went down the way it did. Ohio State was ALWAYS his dream job despite some reports over the years about it orginally being Notre Dame.

      I doubt Buckeyes fans are worried he’ll “screw up their program”. He’s 26-3 so far with back-to-back 12 win seasons & he’s on his way a 3rd straight top recruiting class. Assey needs to get over his bitterness of Meyer leaving admit he did a heck of a job. He should be thankful for his time at UF and wish him well.

      • Gatoralum88 says:

        Please excuse the typos. I meant to write Assey doesn’t KNOW what he’s talking about.

      • Dave Massey says:

        My job is as a sofucleo, and one of the things they teach us is to learn ‘tells’. And when someone like you makes an attempt at degrading comments towards someone it usually is a sign of ignorance and insecurity. My real name is not Massey so I really don’t care about your attempts at bastardizing it. I don’t even use my real name when I am on the job.

        Yep, Meyer was 8-5 his last year, that got Zook fired. Muschamp was 7-6 the next year. And I never said McDonald was a Meyer recruit, I said he was a Meyer player. In fact, if you had paid attention when the story about McDonald first came out I made the distinction then. The fact is that Meyer seemed to be attracted to players with a dark side. Hernandez had a bad past and Meyer knew it when he signed him. Doubt Muschamp would have taken that chance. Meyer didn’t run the program with discipline and in fact let the star players run the program. For every good thing or success he had, he had an equal amount or greater of negatives.

        I have been around Meyer many times, not at Gator gatherings, and the guy has a vulgar mouth. He also has a terrible temper. This has been well documented by the national media. He has taken out a vengeance against many a media member who dared to print anything negative about him or ‘his’ program.

        And by the way you did violate HIPAA laws by even acknowledging that Meyer was a patient or anything about his condition or treatment. But that is what should be expected of an orderly. The guy admitted he was a substance abuser, another sign of a weak character.

        And since you want to be nitpicky your use of the word specificis is not proper although I doubt you know what that word really means even though you claim to work for Shands/ UF Health &…. Guess you left the rest of that off.

        You and boi and many others on here are of the school that the ends justify the means. I just don’t happen to buy into that kool aid punch. I don’t begrudge you your opinion so try and have a little respect for other peoples opinion, obviously I am not the only one that feels this way. I don’t believe it was worth it considering the affect on the program.

        • Gatoralum88 says:

          So, since I’d never seen the word “sofucleo” before I tried googling it. It turns out Google hasn’t seen it before either! Congratulations Pompous Assey (or would you prefer Dave Masshole?) you’ve created your own job with its own word! The reason for renaming you is because it’s fun!…& other readers may get a kick out of it. Besides, practically every post you write insults someone & they’re so frequent it leads me to believe you don’t even have a job. Anyway, wow, I see that my post was keeping you up at night! Or did you start it the afternoon before and only finish at 2:14 AM?

          As far as, Meyer being “attracted to players with a dark side”??? That’s ridiculous! Tebow is his favorite player! He was attracted to players with 5 stars by their name. Hernandez was the top TE in the country coming out of HS & you’re naïve to think not everyone in the country was pursuing him. Also, NO ONE has a temper worse than Muschamp. He displays it on the sideline during EVERY game. My nephew is a junior at UF & has a few friends on the team who tell him Muschamp’s temper is “hair trigger” and even the slightest thing sets him off. Heck, we’ve all seen that!

          Calling him a “substance abuser” for taking 2 Ambien at a time to sleep is a bit of a stretch but I agree it’s not good. BTW, the fact Meyer was a patient where I work was widely publicized way before my mention of it & chances are it was the UF sports information department that released the news.

          Also, if you’re going to be “nitpicky” about the word “specific” try spelling it correctly first ya’ dumbass! You’re attempts to come across as smarter than everyone else are laughable & pathetic! Anyway, you are right about one thing. I shouldn’t stoop to name calling so I’ll try not to in the future. Have a nice day! 🙂

          • Dave Massey says:

            You’re doing nothing to convince me you are anything but small minded and petty.

            Here’s a hint: My job title is an acronym, you will probably need to google that word. Figure it out from there.

            I usually don’t make insulting remarks to people until they do it to me first. I don’t waste my time doing it with you because you wouldn’t understand it anyways.

            This is a 24 hour world, I don’t work nine to five. That is when I got home last night. Don’t flatter yourself thinking I care enough about what you say to be kept up at night. I frequently make posts at those kink of hours. And why would you care anyways.

            And don’t worry about my employment status, I have a very good paying job. Again, why would you care.

            Hernandez was a known gang-banger and Meyer knew it and took him anyways, he has admitted that. Hernandez was a known drug user while he was at Florida and Meyer let him and a lot of others get away with it.

            What does Muschamp having a temper have to do with Meyers temper and vulgar mouth. Two wrongs…. I’m not particularly enamored with that quality in Muschamp either.

            Ambien is a controlled substance. Taking two at a time and mixing it with alcohol is substance abuse. Makes me wonder how he was able to get enough prescription drugs to be able to abuse them too.

            If you work in a health care facility and you name a patient by name it is a violation of HIPAA laws no matter how widely publicized it is, much less say what a nurse treating him had to say. If you are directly involved with patient care in your job you clearly chose the wrong profession.

            You are the one who used the word specificis, which really is a word, google that too while you are at it. I merely pointed out that it was not the proper use of the word. Sounds like you are the one that misspelled a word, so what does that make you?

            Your next to last sentence is clearly a lie. Maybe that is why you like Meyer so much, because neither one of you is very truthful.

            I don’t care if you don’t agree with me or share my opinions, a lot of people don’t. I don’t have a problem with the way you feel about Meyer, I personally don’t like the guy. But you really need to grow up and act more mature with the way you disagree. I don’t like anything Michael J. has to say but I don’t agree with the people on here who want to ban him, I feel he has the right to make comments, same as you.

            • Gatoralum88 says:

              So, I tried googling sofucleo as an acronym & found nothing. I then did the same with specificis & did find that it has something to do with algae. If you’re as smart as you like to think you are you should have realized that it was merely a typo & left it alone ya’ dumbass! I’ve read many of your past posts & have seen obvious typos yet have never felt a need to point them out. Other than Adam, I doubt any of the fans who post on this site are professional writers. You’re not & neither am I.

              Getting back to the reason we began this thread, you write that Hernandez was a “known gang banger” & that Meyer knew & “admitted it”. More fiction from you. In fact, only now is it vaguely coming out that Hernandez may have gang ties as part of his murder investigation. If you saw the HBO story, it seems pretty clear to me Urban & Shelley say it’s not the guy they knew. Scout, Rivals, & ESPN also certainly had no knowledge of it. Clearly, we’ll never agree when it comes to Urban Meyer & that’s fine with me because I couldn’t care less about you.

              Anyway, while I like this site I don’t live here which you often seem to. I have far more of a life outside of this website. I don’t know you nor do I care to. All I do know from what you’ve written is that Dave Massey isn’t your real name (random & weird but so be it) & that you don’t even use your real name in your profession whatever that may be. You also admit you work after midnight. I’ve always felt, as the saying goes, “nothing good happens after midnight”. You may be a drug dealer for all I know. Again, I don’t know nor do I care. What I do know is that I no longer have interest in continuing this thread so I’m done with this. Go Gators!

              • Dave Massey says:

                I guess if it’s not on google it doesn’t exist, google is god. Why don’t you try using your brain and powers of deduction and figuring it out, it really isn’t that difficult. Anybody else on here want to help him out?

                I was poking fun at you with the specificis comment and I knew you wouldn’t get it, and you didn’t. You called me a dumbass for incorrect spelling which is what you did. So again, what does that make you, o one who can’t spell?

                As far as Hernandez goes you are defending a sociopath and a serial murderer. He didn’t become a sociopath after he left Florida he was born that way. After his father died, his mother and brother told Meyer that he was hanging out with gang members. The area of Connecticut he comes from is known for it’s gang activity. That is why he tried pairing him with Tebow, thinking he would be a good influence on him, but you can’t change a sociopath. Meyer even admitted that players were telling him when Hernandez went back to Connecticut that he better watch the guy. The mother and brother were telling him that it was a problem when he went back there so he tried to keep him from going back. He also said he failed a drug test. That was all in the HBO special you just chose to ignore all of it and only say that that wasn’t the AH that they knew. Go back to Pleasantville. Meyer was well aware this guy was a problem both before and certainly during his time at UF. The pros clearly knew it and that is why he dropped in the draft, but the Meyer’s were clueless? Meyer admitted in the piece he gave second chances to guys that didn’t deserve it and Hernandez was one of them. And that was shameless when Shelly said that some of those arrests were not really big deal arrests that other kids do to. Talk about denial and excuses, they are both real good for that. A lot of those arrests were not for minor things and it was the sheer quantity, there wasn’t just a couple of arrests for no big deal.

                The bottom line with Meyer is he didn’t discipline the players because it would have affected him winning football games and he claims he was addicted to winning. Meyer had a mediocre year his last year and knew he was facing another one the next year with Brantley as QB, an average QB at best who didn’t even fit in the system. The program was in a downward spiral and he knew it and bailed. Muschamp has not been able to reverse the trend.

                You defended Myers’s temper by saying Muschamp has one too, that is ridiculous.

                And to say that nothing good happens after midnight and accuse me of being a drug dealer because I sometimes work after midnight is just more immaturity on your part. I guess all those people at Shands that work after midnight are up to no good. You don’t work after midnight because the cafeteria isn’t open. I guess all the hospital workers, firemen, cops, restaurant workers, etc. who work after midnight are all up to no good? My coworkers got a real kick out of the possible drug dealer comment, said I must be really good at my job.

                You not having any interest in continuing this conversation is fine with me, you are childish. So I guess that gives me the last word, go have your mommy change your diaper.

  3. Alex says:

    That 2009 class was an epic failure too

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      That 2009 class had Bostic (Bears), Debose, Evans (Jaguars starter), Gillislee (Dolphins), Jenkins (Dolphins starter & NFL’s current leading tackler), Reed (Redskins starter). I hardly consider that an “epic failure”.

  4. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    There were NO hard hitting questions in Interview…

    1) How do you feel about the Dumpster Fire you left in GVILLE?
    2)Can you Honestly say that the OSU job is Less stressful?
    3)Do you feel GATOR NATION has Cause for being Upset about how you Left them? Also, you realize you made many of them Michigan Fans?

    “I thought the Funniest Thing is at the end when Greg Humble wants more tidbits and Meyer said “I plan to stay here forever but, I guess you”be heard that before” Yeah Meyer GATOR NATION!!! has

  5. Scott says:

    I think the reason why Meyer continues to justify or rationalize publicly on why he left UF, as he now realizes that part of a Successful Legacy is not ONLY what you do for a program while you’re there (championships etc) is also how you leave a program.
    He clearly had “checked out” among other things his last year at UF, which no doubt had lasting negative effect on the health of the program. Also didn’t he collect a paycheck from the University (with some special title) Muschamps 1st year, while he worked at ESPN? Says allot about him (and maybe Foley) among all the other issues that have come up over the years..

  6. brian says:

    I couldn’t wait to see Florida pound Alabama. Still waiting.
    That team was loaded. The only notable payer loss was Harvin, but there were NFL starters thru ought the roster. The problem was Mullen’s absence. Urb was totally lost and confused, had no idea what to do, and Saban responded. That game hurt Florida football.
    Urban doesn’t handle pressure very well. Ive never seen a coach blame players like this guy. In ’09, he couldn’t blame that NFL squad so he became sick. In reality, he made everyone else sick. The 2 page personal pledge he read to his daughters on national television was shameless.
    He had every intention of taking the Ohio State job. Put the year in at ESPN and waited. They had an interim coach (Fickel) who couldn’t handle that job, and Urb was in position yet again to lead new young men he loves like sons. He was at OSU 3 weeks and said if he had a son, he’d name him after one of the DT’s. Shameless opportunist.
    He knew he could recruit his was to an easy Big 10 title, but he doesn’t have the staff to call the plays. If you saw the press conference after OSU got beat by Mich. State last year, you’d vomit. He pointed the finger directly at his D-backfield. Not coaching or lack of preparation, he pinned it on the kids. But that’s what snake oil salesmen do. Call him a great recruiter, thats what he is. But not coach.

  7. gatorboi352 says:

    Don’t care. Muschamp still sucks and better pull out a win at Tennesse or its bye bye.

    Dave Massey: go play in traffic.

  8. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    BRIAN DON’T Forget Dumb Carlos Dunlap Decision to Drink and Drive greatly affected our Pass Rushing ability. I truly feel that it BOTH caused us to Reshuffle DLINE and we were NOT able to put pressure on McCelroy.

    Losing DUNLAP for that game greatly affected our Chances of Winning. IMO when I heard he wouldn’t play SECCG losing our best pass rusher affected us. So you see Brian Harvin wasn’t the only one we didn’t have

    • Dave Massey says:

      With Dunlap and Harvin we still would have gotten smashed in that game. Saban had a better game plan and his players were better prepared and motivated than Florida. They were seeking revenge for 2008. Give Bama credit for being the better team that day, and really ever since. That is the game everyone can point to where both programs went in completely opposite directions. Still don’t understand why Meyer got so ‘stressed out’ about success.

  9. Mr2Bits says:

    Really proud how well Shelley has maintained her tan in that snow laden wasteland!

  10. Sharon M says:

    Personally all the negative comments are expressions of your own negative thoughts.
    I will no longer read them.

    Would be much nicer if Gator fans supported each other. Those are the folks I want to hang owt with

    You negative people are very aggressive and I don’t have the time for your crap!

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