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.

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259 comments Add your comment

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
5:24 pm

So is the gal who was stealing my name now banned?

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
5:25 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.”

I think she has been banned.

kgator79

June 2nd, 2010
5:44 pm

Hopefully they have something in place to ban people like that. It does completely ruin the blog.

ftballdemon

June 2nd, 2010
6:14 pm

So many mis-stated facts all around…so many childish comments. Having fun little boys! Go back to your video games since you have nothing better to do. This rambling trail is so pathetic to read. I believe in the SEC to win the NC again! It’s our destiny! Most likely UF and Alabama again!

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
7:01 pm

“It does completely ruin the blog.”

They sure do but so do people like you….

Jesse James

June 2nd, 2010
7:55 pm

Meyer – Heck he will be dehydrated by Oct.2 and if the going gets tough he will quit again and again and again and again. Anything to get attention to himself.

Charlie Bama

June 2nd, 2010
8:04 pm

TB is right– The early match-up with next year’s eventual national champion in Tuscaloosa will be a barn burner; a prime time world-wind knock-down-drag-out penalty-saturated, Erin Andrews spottin’ event, for sure. I predict a score-fest, with an edge to BAMA, scoring last in the game for a 2-point win, with both teams handily scoring in the high 30s. Regardless of the outcome, we ALL know where it’s headed—A rematch in the Dome in December, with the edge going to whichever team lost the Oct 2 event. Elsewhere in the SEC, Orange Hillbillies will remain bad and the rest of us will enjoy it, and Auburn will enjoy its customary 8-4 regular season, capped by a trip to the Don’tLetThis HappenToYou Bowl in Bazooka, Florida.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
9:00 pm

“and Auburn will enjoy its customary 8-4 regular season”

Auburn has had more wins in the past 10 years than Bama.

“capped by a trip to the Don’tLetThis HappenToYou Bowl in Bazooka, Florida.”

Is that like the Shreveport Sulfur Bowl Bammer went to when they went 6-6 just 3 years ago?

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
9:01 pm

“Tuscaloosa will be a barn burner”

Is that what Bama grads call their trailer parks these days?

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
9:02 pm

“Orange Hillbillies will remain bad”

Yeah, but at least they aren’t all inbred hicks like bama fans. Oh, and TN grads don’t go on to live their lives in double wide trailers in Tuscaloser.

Bama fan

June 2nd, 2010
9:57 pm

I wish Auburn was playing Florida,

Come on over and shine my bcs trophy for me. And while you’re at it tell Cam I saw him eyeballing my laptop the other day. Tell him not to be getting any crazy ideas about my laptop.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 2nd, 2010
10:08 pm

“Come on over and shine my bcs trophy for me.”

Nah, I’m not gay.

“And while you’re at it tell Cam I saw him eyeballing my laptop the other day. ”

I didn’t know Bama fans knew what computers were. You know, being illiterate and all……

“Tell him not to be getting any crazy ideas about my laptop.”

Cool, you tell Mike Price to quit bugging Auburn fans about going to get prostitutes with him.

Thanks

Bama fan

June 2nd, 2010
11:11 pm

I wish Auburn was playing Florida,

“Nah, I’m not gay. ”

Well if you were gay that would make you a lesbian wouldn’t it? After all you are a beyotch. Just like Gene Cheese it is Nick Saban’s beyotch.

Now get over here, shine my bcs trophy and while you’re at it shine my 22 sec trophies and my 7 other national championship trophies.

And wash your mouth at while you’re at it beyotch. You probably been brushing that one tooth of yours with Lee County water which is tainted with cow poop. BTW, did they ever get that problem with the water being tainted with all that cow poop corrected? I never heard of a water system being tainted with cow poop till it happened to Lee County. What a freaking joke.

Now get your punk arse over here and shine my bcs trophy. Otherwise we have to pick a date and time to meet somewhere so I can smack you around face to face. We’ll get you away from hiding behind that keyboard all day.

Bama fan

June 2nd, 2010
11:35 pm

I wish Auburn was playing Florida,

I guess a coward like you doesn’t want to respond. Going to bed but I’m sure I’ll see you on the board again soon. You are always welcome to meet me in person face to face so that we can see just how tough a guy you are.

Best of Atlanta

June 3rd, 2010
12:09 am

——————————————-
….Joshua Nesbitt for Heisman….
——————————————-

Reasonable Debater

June 3rd, 2010
12:31 am

This “I wish Auburn was playing Florida” character ruined this blog when he started taking everybodys name and posting one childish comment after the other, many of which were not suitable for this forum. I hope that Tony and the AJC will take action to make sure this type of vulgarity is banned and does not happen again..

Gwinnett Gator

June 3rd, 2010
7:05 am

Can you dig it… Yes, I can dig it. Now, go dig yourself a hole and cover yourself up and do everyone some good and STHU, you jive chump. Can you dig that?

Charlie Bama

June 3rd, 2010
7:21 am

I guess we’d all sgree, “I Wish Auburn Would….” needs (1) a job, and (2) a girlfriend. Seriously man –give it a try.

The rest of us

June 3rd, 2010
8:07 am

Jive chump? The 70s called and they want their lingo back.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
8:33 am

“Well if you were gay that would make you a lesbian wouldn’t it? After all you are a beyotch. Just like Gene Cheese it is Nick Saban’s beyotch.”

Oh goody, an inbred hillbilly bama fan calls me a b!tch. Did you learn that word in special ed?

“Now get over here, shine my bcs trophy and while you’re at it shine my 22 sec trophies and my 7 other national championship trophies.”

You mean the one you stole from Walmart?

“And wash your mouth at while you’re at it beyotch.”

Do you always put your hairy foot in your mouth, ma’am?

“You probably been brushing that one tooth of yours with Lee County water which is tainted with cow poop.”

That’s no way to talk about your sister/mom.

“I never heard of a water system being tainted with cow poop till it happened to Lee County. ”

I wouldn’t know ma’am, I live in Atlanta. The water here is tainted with human poop.

“Otherwise we have to pick a date and time to meet somewhere so I can smack you around face to face.”

Nothing like an uneducated redneck from Alabama talking trash. I have an idea, why don’t you meet me in front of a mirror. As soon as you see a body appear, start punching. LOL

“We’ll get you away from hiding behind that keyboard all day.”

I’m gonna take a wild guess and assume that you’re a child molester. Probably a lifelong member of NAMBLA.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
8:34 am

“I guess a coward like you doesn’t want to respond.”

I just did, ma’am.

“You are always welcome to meet me in person face to face so that we can see just how tough a guy you are.”

Nah, I’m not into gay bars like you are.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
8:35 am

“I guess we’d all sgree, “I Wish Auburn Would….” needs (1) a job, and (2) a girlfriend. Seriously man –give it a try.”

Pot meet kettle. I love how idiots like charlie bama come on blogs and start commenting on other people needing to get a job……….all while doing the exact same thing as said blogger.

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
8:36 am

“This “I wish Auburn was playing Florida” character ruined this blog when he started taking everybodys name and posting one childish comment after the other, many of which were not suitable for this forum. I hope that Tony and the AJC will take action to make sure this type of vulgarity is banned and does not happen again..”

You ain’t none too bright, is ya? If I were the one stealing blog names etc I would have already been banned. But, since you have the IQ of a carrot, you wouldn’t know that.

Sucks to be you.

A real Bama Grad

June 3rd, 2010
8:46 am

Bama fan

Please shut up. Seriously, you are making bama fans look really stupid right now. You don’t have a bcs trophy sitting in your trailer so how could anyone come over to help you polish it? There is a huge difference between bama grads and fans. The grads have sense enough not to say stupid things. Bama fans are the ones who live in trailer parks, talk trash and then end up on the nightly news describing how a tornado sounded as it took their trailer away from them.

A real Bama Grad

June 3rd, 2010
8:47 am

Charlie Bama

Same can be said up you. Now do everyone a favor and get a job.

A real Bama Grad

June 3rd, 2010
8:49 am

I think that Saban will have a tougher time dealing with Auburn and Arkansas. Penn State will be an easy game to win. Florida is going to be in transition this year and will not be the same Florida of the past couple of years.

Prediction: Bama 34 Florida 10

CalGatorBrotha

June 3rd, 2010
10:08 am

The Gators will be ready to take it to Bama….

Gators are incapable of going undefeated

June 3rd, 2010
10:14 am

“The Gators will be ready to take it to Bama….”

The Gators will be ready to take it to Bama….and lose big time.

FYT

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
10:21 am

TB – nice perspective in your article. Most of the comments here are another story – you guys could use a moderator.

Agree that game in Tuscaloosa will be a big one, but the one that really counts will be in Atlanta.

A loss for either team won’t be the end of the world on 10/2, although Bama probably needs it more, as their road to Atlanta appears tougher in the West than the Gators have it in the East this year.

CalGatorBrotha

June 3rd, 2010
10:54 am

Tony with a headline like that…..you save only one little small paragraph in the last part of your article for the October Bama-Florida game…..it gave us nothing of your insight into this game….but I already know you are picking Bama to win like most people are….but the Gators are going to shock the SEC this year

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
11:16 am

I’m with you, CalBrotha – we’re going to have a big year.

The defense will be much stronger than most people think. If the receivers come through, the offense could really blow up, and Azzani looks to be coaching them up really well.

We’ll be in Atlanta again, and anything could happen from there.

Gators are incapable of going undefeated

June 3rd, 2010
11:28 am

“but the Gators are going to shock the SEC this year…….by losing in the Peach Bowl.

FYT

Gators are incapable of going undefeated

June 3rd, 2010
11:28 am

“We’ll be in Atlanta again…….watching from the bars….

FYT

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
12:58 pm

Little doubt some of us will have to watch from the bars. Bama fans have so many seats locked up its tough to get tickets. Of course, if Bama slips in the West, tix will be a lot easier to come by.

Tim Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
2:38 pm

Hey Red… YOu get your tickets for this weekend? I bought extra lube with my per diem!

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
2:40 pm

This mockery of this blog has got to stop. These posters must be stopped as well! I will stop making love to men if this does not come to an end.

(BTW Tim…. can I fly out this weekend too?)

RedBaron

June 3rd, 2010
2:42 pm

Hi Timmy! I did get my tickets and thank you for the autographed dildo from Corch Meyer. My goodness it’s soooooo big. I may have to sneak a try before coming out… to Denver I mean.

Tim Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
2:44 pm

Sure IwAwpF. Your welcome to fly out too. Shoot me your personal info to ttebow@denverbroncos.com and I’ll set up the flights. Friday AM to Sunday PM okay?

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
2:46 pm

Email sent. : )

(The Real) Reptiles Rule

June 3rd, 2010
2:52 pm

Please stop playing on the interwebs kids. Just come to my house and we can all jump in the shower!

Tim Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
2:54 pm

“Email sent. : )”

Nice pics!! Who’s the black guy, you or are you the skinny white bottom guy? Looking forward to this weekend!

I wish Auburn was playing Florida

June 3rd, 2010
3:00 pm

Skinny white guy here. That’s my good friend with obvious benefits! : )

RedBaron

June 3rd, 2010
3:01 pm

Hey Timmy. Send those pics over to me will ya?

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
3:03 pm

Can I get in on these gay porn pics? Did you know Gainesville just elected a gay mayor? Thank god our ways in Meyerville are now being brought to the front!

Tom Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
3:13 pm

Red… email sent.

Oaktown.. forward email to ttebow@denverbronocs.com

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
3:13 pm

Texgator

June 3rd, 2010
3:15 pm

Man, so much blind denial here…shutting up all the Gator-haters is going to be one of the many things making it FUN again this season. As Coach Meyer himself alludes to in recent interviews, last year was a strange one–all that attention, but no fun at all. It’s better when all us reptiles hunker down together back in the Swamp, gettin’ ready to ambush y’all. Keep talking, angry young idiots: it just makes the eventual outcome not only more enjoyable, but more LIKELY!

Tim Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
3:19 pm

Got it and returned. Enjoy… Check out the black guy’s size!

OaktownGator

June 3rd, 2010
3:26 pm

You’re right Tex – grade school kids are more mature than these boyz.

This must be the return of Georgia’s finest – the Icy Hot Stuntaz.

Tim Tebow

June 3rd, 2010
3:27 pm

“It’s better when all us reptiles hunker down together”

I couldn’t agree more my Gaytor brother. Next time you come to Denver, let me know. We can “hook up”!