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A Vince Peluso column: Words from OSU coach spoken with pride and passion

It’s tough to be in a room with Urban Meyer and not come away impressed. So many times when people meet a big-name athlete or coach, someone they look up to, the experience can be disappointing.

With Meyer, that isn’t the case.

At the Urban Meyer-Dean Hood Football Camp at the Spire Institute on Wednesday, it’s easy to see why Meyer has coached four undefeated regular seasons as well as won two national titles during his head coaching career with stops at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now, Ohio State University.

Should Meyer ever decide to turn from coaching to motivational speaking, he’ll be equally successful.

The Buckeye coach and 1982 St. John graduate commands the room unlike any other person I’ve ever heard speak.

(For the record I’m not an Ohio State fan who is simply starstruck by seeing the coach of my favorite team).

Meyer spoke with campers about drawing positive attention to themselves. Whenever he noticed a camper looking down at the floor or in the other direction he quickly said, “eyes on me!” then all eyes were on him.

Even at a youth camp, Meyer’s incredibly competitive spirit shone through.

“I saw 15 kids walking over here before I called you guys over here, I don’t get that,” he scolded. “Some of you are sitting in the back. Why? I don’t get that... sit in the front.”

When talking about the size of the camp, Meyer said he didn’t understand why every kid and coach in the area wasn’t present.

“I can’t see why every kid in the county wouldn’t be here for a free camp,” he said. “You get to hang out, run around, throw the ball around a little bit and it’s the same with every coach. There must be other things going on, which I’m sure there are.

“But you’d like to see every high school coach in the area come out and hang out and talk some football, get a free lunch and spend a great day out here.”

Perhaps that’s why Meyer wants that is his desire to see the area he’s from succeed.

Last year, a flabbergasted Meyer was disappointed that the camp that bore his name came with a fee.

He vowed that wouldn’t be the case in 2014.

He backed that up.

“Well, that was all Urban, he said he didn’t want to charge a fee and we said, ‘OK that’s fine but somebody has to cover the cost cuz it’s not free,’ and he said. ‘I’ll write a check,’” Media One Group operations manager Dave Miller said. “He’s the one writing the check this year. That’s all about integrity, you can see it in Urban. He’s a guy who has a lot of integrity, he loves coming home, he loves helping out the youth in the area and we appreciate him coming out and doing that.”

While some might mail in coming to a youth camp, Meyer seems to genuinely enjoy himself during the trip.

Cordial and friendly with any and all photo requests, the Buckeyes coach could be seen tossing a football around with some and joking around with old friends and acquaintances.

But when it came time to get serious and discuss the importance of standing out in a positive way, Meyer spoke with conviction to the group.

“For some reason, and I see it just escalating in the last 20 years, ‘I’m going to draw attention to myself,’” Meyer said at a press conference following the camp when talking about that message. “I think it starts in the National Football League because everyone looks up to those players. There was a time, and I give credit to the commissioner who has really done a nice job, I know he gets a lot of heat, but Mr. Goodell has done a great job. They see everyone drawing attention to themselves and not necessarily in a positive way.

“We want people to draw attention to themselves in a positive way and I think that’s the message one of my coaches gave the speech, ‘you don’t die your hair purple and pink and do all these things to draw attention to yourself, why not show up early? Why not work a little harder? Why not get great grades? Get the attention of the teachers in the right way, not being a jerk in the classroom or showing up five minutes late for practice.’”

In Meyer’s experience, those who do those things don’t typically make good professional or collegiate athletes.

“Not one NFL coach or scout has ever said, ‘hey, do you got a guy that’s usually late and kind of disrespectful, do you have one of those guys? I really want him on my pro team,’” he said, drawing a laugh from those listening. “It’s never happened and it’s the same thing when we go out and recruit and that message has to go out and I try to get that out as much as possible.”

Meyer took time after the camp concluded to discus the evolution of the spread offense with the coaches in attendance, while Hood later gave a talk about special teams.

In a day and age when it seems most people on the level of Meyer end up being a disappointment when it comes to remembering where they‘re from, it’s refreshing to see what the Ohio State coach is doing to help and promote his hometown.

So, when Meyer is roaming the sidelines at Ohio Stadium this fall, Ashtabula County residents can say with pride, “he’s from my town, and proud of it!’”

Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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