Meyer’s ultimate test will come Oct. 2 at Alabama

 Destin—Before Tuesday, the last time I spoke to Urban Meyer in person was on the Friday before the SEC championship game in December. Tim Brando and I had a chance to visit with the Florida head coach on the floor of the Georgia Dome prior to No. 1 Florida meeting No. 2 Alabama for a spot in the BCS title game. I remember that he looked tired and way too thin.

As we walked away I remember saying to Brando: “He does not look good.”

A lot has happened to Urban Meyer since that Friday in Atlanta and yesterday, when he stood before a podium and actually laughed while he addressed the media at the SEC Spring Meetings began. Some of us who cover Florida wondered if we would ever see him laugh again. He took some good-natured ribbing from the press and was able to give it back with a smile. We sure didn’t think we’d see that again.

Here is the short version of Meyer’s unusual journey: In 2009 the strain of trying to repeat as national champions and stay No. 1 took their toll on Meyer, who won’t turn 46 years old until July 10. He had been secretly battling chest pains with no known cause. On Dec. 26, 2009 Meyer shocked the college football world by announcing that he was going to retire for health reasons. Then he shocked it again a day later in a bizarre press conference in New Orleans by saying that he was going to simply take a leave of absence.

The flip-flop opened Meyer up to waves of criticism and speculation. A lot of it was deserved. Some of it was not. It came on top of a season that saw him fined $30,000 by the SEC office for complaining about officiating. It came on top of a poorly-made decision to suspend linebacker Brandon Spikes for only a half-game for sticking his hand in the facemask of a Georgia running back. It came on top of the suspension of defensive end Carlos Dunlap for being arrested on the Monday before the SEC championship game. It ultimately came on top of a total meltdown against Alabama at the Georgia Dome. Alabama was the better team. Florida looked dazed and confused and tired. So did its head coach.

“Last year we kind of brought some of that stuff on ourselves. It was a crazy year,” Meyer said. “Every time you turned on the TV it was ‘Gators This” and “Gators This.”

Meyer’s diagnosis was uncertain as was his future as Florida’s football coach. And in the absence of good information, which Meyer did not provide, speculation filled the void. That is the reality of the 24-hour news cycle.

 Was he in or was he out? Was he telling the truth about any of this? Was he really going to return as coach and if he did, could he take a bunch of time off and keep the edge that enabled him to win two national championships in three years (2006, 2008)? Could Urban Meyer even BE Urban Meyer is he wasn’t obsessive about the details of his football program?

On Tuesday Urban Meyer looked like a man who had been shaken up over the past year and in the process had learned an important life lesson. He hopes to take that lesson, move forward and be just as good at his job as before.

“I have to be smarter in the future and I’m going to be,” said Meyer, set to begin his sixth season as Florida’s head coach. “ (People said) Just take care of yourself and I didn’t do that. The last year and a half was really a bizarre deal.”

The good news, Meyer said Tuesday, is that he finally got a diagnosis for his ailment: esophageal spasms. They create chest pains, which Meyer said he had been having for years, and can be treated with medication. Meyer said the medication works and that he has not an an episode since January.

Meyer said that not knowing the cause of his ailment only added to the stress of his job.

“When they finally say ‘this is it. Take this,’ then you feel a lot better about things,” he said. “Okay, good. Let’s go.”

Losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game cost Florida a shot at another BCS national title. But it may ultimately serve as the motivational spring board for the Gators to begin life after Tim Tebow.

“I hope that it will,” said Meyer. “I’ve had some discussions with our coaches about it. Some people overlook that but when you’re talking about a group of 18-to-20 year olds you need to talk about what the rallying cry will be.

“Last year it was hard to come up with one. This year it will be a little easier.”

After losing Tebow, one of the most decorated players in college football history, and five drafted players from the Florida defense, the Gators are supposed to take a step back in 2010. Those expectations—or the lack of them—may also be a good thing, said Meyer.

“I don’t want to say that our guys have a chip on their shoulder but we expect to compete for Atlanta (the SEC championship game) every year,” he said. “They’ve heard what people have said. I’m not doing all the talking. I’ve been doing some listening to our players. I like the look in their eye. We’ve still got some really, really good players.”

Finally, Meyer said that he is learning to trust the people who work for him and not try to micromanage every detail of the football program. That, if he can actually pull it off, represents a big change for Meyer, who wants to micromanage everything.

“I have a better appreciation for the guys around me,” said Meyer. “You can just bolt for five days. I’ve never done that in my life. But you know what? The stadium is still standing. Guys are working out and getting faster. And guys are graduating.”

So will Urban Meyer’s new outlook on life and coaching last? Or, will he return to his old habits under the weekly pressure of game preparation this fall? Coaching at the top of his profession and be excessively demanding and unforgiving.

Florida goes to Alabama on Oct. 2. If the two teams are undefeated and ranked in the top five, That week Meyer’s new life will be put to the ultimate test.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

259 comments Add your comment

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:08 pm

Gee whiz, the two gator fans above are weirdos.

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
3:11 pm

I, too, love men and have had my dad touch me in private areas.

Hurricane's Are Coming

June 2nd, 2010
3:11 pm

“Gee whiz, the two gator fans above are weirdos.”

Yeah they are. Anyway, Bama is going to crush the gators. End of story.

Joshua Jacket

June 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

……………

…………… NESBITT for HEISMAN

RedBaron

June 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

GOD!!!!! I love you Tim Tebow.

'BAMA 1

June 2nd, 2010
3:14 pm

You gaYtor a-holes will see come 10-2-10, ROLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
3:14 pm

I love you too RedBaron… Whoever you are. Want me to fly you to Denver for the weekend?

Capt. sMitch

June 2nd, 2010
3:14 pm

Hey RedBaron didn’t your wife play football also?

RedBaron

June 2nd, 2010
3:16 pm

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. I’ll go anything you wish. Can I bring the towel you threw me at the last home game. I would love to show you a trick I do with it.

Dawglasville

June 2nd, 2010
3:16 pm

I hope that Urban doesn’t have another panic attack after Bama beats them again. The only doctor in Alabama is Granny with her medicine jug.

Sorry, Gator and Bama fans. You guys spend so much time on our blogs being ugly that in a moment of weakness I have stooped to your level.

RedBaron

June 2nd, 2010
3:18 pm

Hi Captin sMitch!!!

My wife tried to play football but she is real big and couldn’t move too fast. Unless it was to the fridgerator.

Capt. sMitch

June 2nd, 2010
3:18 pm

Anybody want a parm puff shoved up their ass

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
3:20 pm

would be nice if ajc.com could put an age restriction on people who can post on here.

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
3:20 pm

Red… Your wish has been granted. Send me your travel info to ttebow@denverbroncos.com and we’ll get the flights and hotels worked out. What weekend would you like to come out?

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
3:20 pm

I would like one of those shoved up my ass. What are they?

RedBaron

June 2nd, 2010
3:22 pm

Thank the good lord for Tim Tebow. Tim… I can ready this weekend. I just need to get trimmed up and cleaned up first. Let;s try Friday morning out of Orlando returning late Sunday. k?

(The Real) Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

They need to get that adolescent kid off these blogs. You can tell that schools out. And so am I. Have a nice day.

(The Real) Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:25 pm

(I still love men though!)

Greensboro, Georgia

June 2nd, 2010
3:26 pm

————————————————
…………NESBITT for HEISMAN………..
————————————————

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:28 pm

“They need to get that adolescent kid off these blogs. You can tell that schools out. And so am I. Have a nice day.”

I’m not stealing your blog name. So please do me a favor and don’t point your finger at me.

Thanks, I wish Auburn was playing Florida

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:29 pm

(I love men too!)

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:32 pm

“(I love men too!)”

Yeah, not so much. But thanks for the laugh.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:35 pm

My boyfriend and I share this login and he must be blogging from his phone.

You better get home honey…. it’s about to rain and remember the last time you came home all wet?

hmmmmmmmmmm.

Long Gator

June 2nd, 2010
3:36 pm

The SEC champ will be from the West. The two best teams
in the conference are in the West.

Miss Greensboro USA

June 2nd, 2010
3:36 pm

————————————————
……….Joshua Nesbitt for Heisman !
————————————————

Tim Tebow

June 2nd, 2010
3:39 pm

Hiya LONG Gator! Why do they call you that? What are your plans for this weekend? I got a new buddy flying in from Orlando. Want hang out?

RedBaron

June 2nd, 2010
3:41 pm

Tim!!! Three’s a crowd. Thought it was gonna be me and you. If you want another guy in the mix, I can hang. It’s not like I’ve never done that before!

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*itch

June 2nd, 2010
3:41 pm

I stole your blog names losers, get over it.

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*itch

June 2nd, 2010
3:43 pm

I didn’t steal your blog name though I wish Auburn was playing Florida, that would be either Reptile or Kgayfer. One of the two.

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*itch

June 2nd, 2010
3:44 pm

Can’t wait to see the Canes beat that a$$ though.

Canes Suck too!!!

June 2nd, 2010
3:45 pm

Canes can’t beat their own dicks.

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B

June 2nd, 2010
3:48 pm

Yeah… your right . We suck. Sorry guys.

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*itch

June 2nd, 2010
3:49 pm

What happened to my name?

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*itch

June 2nd, 2010
3:50 pm

Huh… it’s back. Cheap ass blog.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

My mommy said I could get on the computer again guys, please don’t be mean.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:54 pm

“My boyfriend and I share this login and he must be blogging from his phone.

You better get home honey…. it’s about to rain and remember the last time you came home all wet?

hmmmmmmmmmm.”

That makes absolutely no sense.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:54 pm

HAHA its funny that someone took the made up name of that guy who was making fun of us.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

“I didn’t steal your blog name though I wish Auburn was playing Florida, that would be either Reptile or Kgayfer. One of the two.”

I’d hope not because whoever stole my name uses really bad grammar.

Reptiles Rule

June 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

(I still love men though!!)

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:56 pm

Reptiles Rule

Why are you stealing blog names? I mean really, you could be funnier and more original.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
3:57 pm

“I’d hope not because whoever stole my name uses really bad grammar.”

and punctuation.

Gillislee

June 2nd, 2010
3:59 pm

“I hope CUM has a heart attack and dies during the game”

Now there is a poster with real class, be ashamed buddy. Yeah you might not like Urban but the guy is a husband, father, and a human being.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
4:00 pm

( I love men too! Yummy!)

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
4:02 pm

“( I love men too! Yummy!)”

Could you at least try to be funny? I mean, you’re gay-ed out comments are about as funny as Mike Vick killing dogs.

I’m guessing that you have an anal fetish.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
4:03 pm

I do like Anal. Why did you take my login. It’s not funny. I was here way before you imposters showed up. LEAVE!!!!

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
4:06 pm

“I do like Anal. Why did you take my login. It’s not funny. I was here way before you imposters showed up. LEAVE!!!!”

Well, we now know the butt pirate who stole my blog name loves it up the butt. Good luck with that!

Payback's like your boyfriend, A B*tch

June 2nd, 2010
4:12 pm

You guys are too much LOL.

Childish imitators suck

June 2nd, 2010
4:19 pm

To the guy stealing people’s handles. What the hell is wrong with you? Are you really that childish and immature? Wonder how tough you are hiding behind that computer keyboard. There’s a psych profile on people like you who hurl insults while hiding comfortably behind a keyboard. That psych profile tends to show that you are weak, anti-social, shunned by classmates, co-workers,etc., have an inferiority complex, angry at the world so this is how you lash back, and most of all you are a damn coward.

Me

June 2nd, 2010
4:29 pm

This idiot who keeps posting under other peoples names and making numerous stupid adolescent comments needs to ne banned from the AJC. I’m sure they can track his actual E Mail address. Some ot the direct statements are very offensive.

Beast from the East

June 2nd, 2010
5:16 pm

Wow. This blog went to hell quickly. Nice work policing the input, Tony! I guess we need to find another place to actually discuss football.