I once met a man who used to be an alcoholic. He's no longer an alcoholic, but he's still an addict. He simply traded booze for soft drinks. The untamed base compulsion to drink still remains, but he's no longer a drunk, just over-caffeinated.
Urban Meyer reminds me of him.
Meyer, one of the greatest winners in college football history, so feared losing that it chased him out of the game at 55 years old. The man nearly stressed himself to death on two separate occasions, first with a heart attack at Florida in 2009 and last year at Ohio State, where he battled a cyst in his brain the size of a fist that dealt him debilitating headaches.
Clearly, Meyer's life is better without football in it, because there's an uncomfortable likelihood football will send him to a premature grave.
But Meyer has an innate need to coach... someone. He's been doing it too long to kick this habit now. Urban Meyer is not going to be Mark Richt, kicking back on the beach on a Monday afternoon in September.
So, Meyer has attempted to fill the coaching void with... more coaching. He teaches a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class on leadership at Ohio State. He has an assistant AD job at Ohio State where he coaches the Buckeyes' coaches.
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealercaught up with Meyer for a long piece, and I thought of my soda-holic friend at multiple points throughout the piece.
At one point Meyer talked about a meeting he and Charles Buchanan, a lecturer in Ohio State's business school, held with the team captains of 35 of Ohio State's 36 varsity teams.
“Those are some of the payback moments,” Meyer said. “Just wow. If I have those moments … But if those disappear? You take away those moments and I would be concerned.”
And then there was this passage that made me wonder if Meyer can really be satisfied with caffeine or if he'll decide one day he can't live without the hard stuff.
“I’ve been in a fight for 33 years, and now you’re not in that fight,” Meyer says. “So how do you fulfill that fight? And I feel that every morning. Every morning.
“It’s all about a win and a loss for 33 years. I mean every day was. Not just you’re getting ready for a game. No, no, no, no. You’re recruiting every day. You’re going against Alabama and Clemson every day, The Team Up North every day. Now you’re not. That’s the number one void, is you’re not in a fight.”
Meyer gave Lesmerises the same answer he's given everyone else on a possible return. “I’m not there at the moment. Like you said, next year can I say that? We’ll talk again next year and we’ll see.”
That's the honest answer and, thus, the one Meyer should give. It's also the one that's going to get him linked to every Power 5 job that comes available and one that gets pieces like this written until it becomes obvious to everyone involved that he really can get by drinking Diet Coke for the rest of his days.