Everyone has a history with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Here’s mine.

By Adam Silverstein
December 9, 2010

I have a history with Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. No, he never coached me. I don’t know what it was like to play under him, have his performance demands insisted upon me or feel like his approval is the most important thing in the world.

My grades were never judged by him, the type of young man I grew up to be in college was not due to his influence, he never praised me for being a positive member of the community and he didn’t have to punish me for stepping out of line.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how he affected others – guys like Vernell Brown, Tim Tebow, Ahmad Black and Chris Rainey (just to name a few). And that doesn’t mean he had no affect on my life – because he did.

While I run this website impartially and with as little positive bias toward Florida as possible, I do have a handful of my own stories and opinions about Meyer – ones I almost shared just over a year ago when he retired the first time.

RECOGNITION AND A PAT ON THE BACK

Meyer’s tenure at Florida began as my time working in the Sports Information Department at the University Athletic Association was coming to an end. His first season (2005) was my last, and the press conference for his second National Signing Day (2006) was one of the final events I covered for the University of Florida.

The football offices were crazy the week leading up that signing day. Everyone knew the names of the players who had already provided their verbal commitments; everyone had heard how big of a deal it was to reel in Tebow and Percy Harvin. But no one knew more than Meyer – not by a long shot.

Standing, listening, watching and later transcribing Meyer’s words as he officially announced the 2006 signing class, you could tell he was excited. It was my impression that Meyer knew this class had “it,” though it was never in my wildest dreams that they could win a National Championship the following season.

Well, that’s how I felt until I bumped into Meyer at a softball game.

Days after the Gators recruiting class was signed, sealed and delivered, I was working the softball press box. A friend called to tell me she was there, and we met outside to talk for a few moments so I could take a break. Knowing my love for football, she asked me a few questions about this Tebow guy everyone was talking about, and I went on-and-on telling her that he was a special player and the way Meyer spoke about him, he’s the type of player that could win this team a title.

Whether I was speaking at a high volume or he was around me at an opportune time, Meyer saw me walking back to the press box and sidled up next to me. Smiling wide, he said he always saw me running around the offices, asked for my name and said he appreciated how passionately I spoke about the team. He added that with hard work anything was possible, including a national title. A few pleasantries and a pat on the back later, he was off to watch the rest of the game – with his family.

I saw Meyer on-and-off after that at Florida functions or even randomly around town. He remembered my name every time – and always made it a point to say hello.

2009 BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

The 2007 BCS National Championship win was great, but as someone who spent his life growing up in South Florida, having the opportunity to see the Gators play for the title at then-Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, was something special.

The game was exciting, it was emotional and the celebration when the clock stopped was seemingly endless. There are sporting events (good and bad) in my life that have made me teary-eyed, very few that have made me cry. I cried tears of joy that night. Not when the players celebrated on the field, not when the trophy was being presented to the team but instead when Meyer stepped down from the podium clutching the crystal football like it was a baby, looked up at the adoring crowd and finally headed off into the tunnel.

Only a day later did I found out that Steve, a close friend of mine, was on the field that night working for FOX Sports. Snapping pictures of everything he could, he happened to be back in the tunnel when Meyer walked through alone. “All right, coach! High five, coach!” Steve exclaimed. Meyer stopped, looked at him, cradled the trophy and gave him a passionate high five as his smile grew even wider.

TREATING FLORIDA LIKE IT WAS HIS FAMILY

Fans, his players, his opponents, his staff and the media respect and have a deep appreciation for what Meyer has achieved on the field. His accomplishments are many but regardless of what he did, Meyer was unable to escape condemnation.

From arrested players to altercations with the media to accusations of being disingenuous, Meyer was harshly criticized whenever the opportunity presented itself. I suppose the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” can be put into play here, but that is not a reason or excuse for how he was treated on a consistent basis.

Looking back on the criticisms tossed his way, all of them appear to stem from the very reason Meyer has decided to leave the Gators – family. Meyer treated every staff member and every player like a member of his extended family. The program he built at Florida preached family values in recruiting, in coaching and in life. He wanted to teach his players to be responsible and accountable – whether that meant posting good grades and donating time to charity or rebounding from unfortunate life mistakes.

When players were arrested under Meyer, his No. 1 priority was not getting the pressure off his back by cutting them lose, it was trying to rehabilitate them and giving them an opportunity bounce back – using football as a reward. When he felt a player of his was unfairly portrayed by a media member, he (over)reacted harshly because in his eyes it was like a family member was being attacked. And when he chose not to throw his coaches under the bus this season when many of them share in the blame for a lackluster finale to his career at Florida, he was protecting the family he built.

From close and from afar, I have always felt like a part of that family. Meyer was not just the reason the football team has been successful over the last few years, he was and remains integral in the growth and enduring strength of the Gator Nation.

Family is not something that is recently becoming important to Meyer – it always has been. The difference is that he is finally comfortable realizing which family needs his attention the most right now – and it’s not the one wearing orange and blue.

31 Comments

  1. gatornutt says:

    Adam, I’ve been a long-time reader of your website. You do a great job and this is my first time commenting. I figured I had to comment on this article. Amazing job.

  2. John S says:

    Very cool post.

  3. gatorgrad79 says:

    Adam – great story. I agree that the measure of vitriole directed toward Meyer has seemed disproportionate and only explained by people either being jealous or hating UF and transferring that hate to the head coach. Ironically, when Bill Cowher did exactly the same thing as Meyer, there was surprise but not the derogatory and character impugning comments. I wish the media could be fair, but that would mean they would have to be impartial, and the majority are not.

  4. David says:

    Nice thoughts Adam. Colin Cowerd of ESPN Radio’s The Heard is reporting that he has a source (the same source that told him Lame Kiffen was going to USC) who told him that UF knows who the next coach will be. He said that he needs to protect his source for the next day or two but the coach has something to do with the acronym “STAB.” He said once the story breaks we’ll know he had it first. All these people were calling in putting together interesting acronyms for Peterson (Broncos) or Strong (S) or Mullen (S) and even Saban

  5. Daniel M. says:

    Out-STANDING!

  6. John S says:

    STeve Addazio’s Back?

  7. cline2574 says:

    I love the ball control Urban shows in the above picture.

  8. SaraGator says:

    Adam – I am going to read your article again tonight with a cocktail in hand and then toast to you. Excellent read and it’s my perspective on Coach Meyer.

    We, the GatorNation Family need to stop listening to the media and other fanbases and be more supportive of our team and coaches. That said, I have faith in Foley to bring a new member to our family.

  9. DCgator says:

    Awesome post, Adam.

  10. GG says:

    Urban needs to be our recruiting coordinator, part time job, stays involved!!

  11. npgator says:

    Thanks for sharing that Adam.

  12. brlgator says:

    great great great piece. thanks for sharing this with everyone

  13. Gatorbuc15 says:

    This was a great read Adam.

    Thanks

  14. GATORNATIONSPRESIDENT says:

    Great article! You are truly the best at what you do Adam—and I don’t just mean at the University of Florida, or the state of Florida, I mean in the ENTIRE country.

  15. SLRaider says:

    Why is Cowherd a bag of air? Because he has access thru ESPN to pro and college sources? He’s not always right with what he says, but at least he has an opinion. He kinda whiffed on LeBron…first he came out and said LeBron was leaving during the Cavs series against the Celtics, and then changed his mind in the summer and said he was staying. I’m kinda interested in seeing if his source got this one right.

  16. g8ter27 says:

    Great article Adam! John S, if that were true I think we all here would storm the offices of Foley. ha!

  17. ziggy says:

    Urban is and always will be part of the GATOR family. Love ya coach. You are a great man that puts others before yourself, on and off the football field. It’s time to put your family first. Best wishes to you and your family in all your future endeavors.

  18. g8ter27 says:

    Well if Cowherd is right John S, (no not Steve Addazio is back) how about Saban Tells Alabama Bye

  19. DGLgatorfan says:

    Great article adam and lol @cline2574 s

  20. Mr2Bits says:

    Nice piece Adam. Funny you and I parted UF in the same year. I’m guessing you and I might have crossed paths with some of the same circles if you were around the UAA during that time.

  21. Will says:

    Adam- great read and helpful to level set emotions. I love Coach Meyer and what he has done for this program. He will always be a Gator.

  22. John S says:

    @ g8ter27 I like that acronym, it would kill two birds with one stone. Bama would spend 6 million a year if they had too, especially with Auburn on top.

  23. Todd says:

    Great read Adam, thanks.
    Where in South Florida did you grow up?

  24. Scooterp says:

    Nice thoughts, Adam. I almost feel like a terd, right now, for how I’ve been hammering the coaching staff this season. But, my thoughts and feelings about Urban Meyer haven’t changed. We all know he loved to win and did everything to turn this program into a champion, most of all though, I think he loved developing young kids into grown men even more. Deep down that was his true passion and calling in life. In the end he had to give up his extended family before he lost his own. Wish you well, coach.

  25. sjkoepp says:

    Beautiful post. My family was able to see Urban give an inspirational speech and get signed posters from him a couple years ago and they still haven’t shut up about what an incredible speaker and motivator he was. Everyone in the room felt like they could climb mt.everest after. He will be missed and I applaud him for being the bigger man and enjoying the best years of his daughter’s lives.

  26. Jesse C says:

    Urban is a great gator and will always be one just like Spurrier. He had succeeded at such a high level in such a short period of time and we can all be grateful for that. I respect his decision to resign and I understand his reasons. We can all appreciate what he has done for Gator Nation, our alma mater and all the student athletes he helped mold into men. I always thought he went about things the right way and had a good heart and mind. Thank you Adam for confirming that for me. I was happy to read just now that Urban plans to continue to work with the UAA in some capacity. Therefore he can continue to be a positive role model and representative for gator nation including remaining to live in his home in Gainesville. He’s not abandoning us, he’s just re-focusing his priorities after sacrificing them for others for more than a decade. If you can’t appreciate that then you aren’t human. Go Gators!

  27. g8ter27 says:

    I have yet another good one for the alleged STAB. How abouyt Stoops and Brothers. Maybe his br at FSU will come and take over as D. Coord. I think he still has one in the HS ranks as well. My opinion whihc is worthless is we hire Mullen..but I would take Stoops or Saban so we can hope. I think with Nebraska (Colorado does not count) out of the Big 12 it takes some of the prestige away but I can see where Stoops may still turn us down regardless of his house at Crescent Beach.

  28. David Hand says:

    Thanks Adam. You said some very important things about the kind of man Urban Meyer is. Things that REALLY needed to be said. God bless you brother!

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