Meyer in midst of Summer of Urban
Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 5:52 p.m.
His summer has been busy by normal standards, but not by his. He's been to Kuwait and he's been to Key West and he's been to Cooperstown and he spent part of this week in Connecticut.
“Not really,” Urban Meyer said. “Not the way I'm used to being busy.”
Usually at this time of year he's waist-deep in a football team. Downtime is just a rumor. Every waking minute is spent on trying to get an edge.
And while Meyer is deeply involved in college football with his work for ESPN's myriad channels, he misses the old days.
You know, way back when a year ago.
And yet, it's cool.
“At this point in my life, this is what I want to be doing,” he said.
The former Florida coach left the game behind when he stepped away following Florida's loss to Florida State to end the regular season in 2010. Health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family finally yanked him away from the grind and into the Summer of Urban.
Does he miss it? Sure. You don't do what he did for so long at so many places and look into so many faces and not miss it. You want to scratch the phantom limb every once in awhile, and there have been times when Meyer has felt like grabbing a whistle and ordering the kids at Burger King to run the Oklahoma drill in the parking lot.
“It's been hard because I miss the preparation,” he said. “I miss that more than anything else.”
After six seasons and two national titles at Florida, Meyer has settled into his new life. He has taken son Nate to football camps at West Point and Penn State and a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, moved his daughter to her new life at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and blanketed the country doing interviews for ESPN.
And there was Kuwait.
Meyer had been asked to travel to the Middle East before — back when he was coach-busy and not dad-busy — and declined. This time, he made the inquiry into making the trip.
Along with former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie and former Gator defensive lineman Trace Armstrong, Meyer made the journey earlier this month.
“It was a life-changer,” Meyer said. “The respect I have for the men and women in the military can be multiplied by a thousand now. It was the best group of people I've ever been around.
“It was 129 degrees there and the morale was high. We were there with the whole idea being to thank them, and they were so appreciative of us. At each camp, we'd spend about two hours meeting people and signing autographs. I'll tell you, there are a lot of Gator fans out there.”
That includes Meyer, who will put his bias aside when he works for the four-letter network. He'll start the season doing color at the Ohio State-Akron game (ironically enough) while many of the players he recruited to Florida will be taking the field at The Swamp to face Florida Atlantic.
“I'm glad I'm going to be busy that day,” he said.
Because as settled as he is in his new role and as much as he has enjoyed his summer (his mantra has been, “This being a dad thing is cool.”), once toe meets leather the pangs will be there.
You know it. He knows it.
But this had to happen, Urban Meyer 2.0. He had to get away from the daily grind before something serious happened. Those who don't think he was the same coach in 2010 as he had been the previous five years don't know Meyer. There was a combination of things that turned an elite program into a mind-numbing 8-5, not the least of which was a bad break in the season's swing game against LSU.
He tried to delegate, found out he couldn't delegate the stress and walked away.
He's there for the new coach, there for the former players, trying to keep a distance unless he's asked to be involved.
“I've sat in that chair and I know he doesn't want to be bothered,” Meyer said. “If Will (Muschamp) texts me and wants to talk about something, I'm there for him. I talk to some of the players, but I'm laying low. I talk to more of the guys in the NFL than the current players.
“I'll be rooting extremely hard for the Gators. I love Florida and I always will. It's amazing to me that so many people don't think they will win the East. I think they have a great shot at winning the East if the offensive line comes through.”
Spoken like a coach or an analyst?
A little bit of both.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to The Dools and ‘Dozo Show weekdays from noon-2 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.