Urban Meyer pulled something out of his pocket during my interview with him on the field, about two hours from his Buckeye debut.
I looked down in his hand.
Fittingly, it was a buckeye. The same one he showed our TV production crew Friday afternoon. “For good luck,” he said with a smile.
He didn’t need much luck against Miami University, but he needed an anchor. It was an emotional high of a day, a day he probably thought was impossible when he was four years old — the age of his earliest OSU memories. “I teared up during the Skull Session when the band was playing songs that I remembered from forever and ever,” he admitted to me, standing on the field during pregame in a suit.
His new Athletic Director, Gene Smith, watched him enter the field for the first time with his team, but watched from a distance. Smith loved the new traditions Meyer was starting. The pregame walk, decked out in suits, through Ohio Stadium wasn’t new. But Smith noticed the subtlety of what Meyer did next. Instead of walking straight to the locker room, Meyer stopped, turned, and shook every player’s hand, one by one.
“It’s a personal and emotional thing for him that makes it different,” Smith said watching with a smile. “Ohio State is a school that can flip (results) in a year. I believe USC and Ohio State are schools that can flip.”
He will try to flip those results leading a brand new staff. There are so many new faces working with him, Meyer said it reminded him of being back at Bowling Green. Everything from gameplan to gameday to managing a game substitution had to be learned. Saturday was a test for his team and his staff.
“Zero,” was Meyer’s answer when I asked him how many philosophical battles he has had with his new Offensive Coordinator, Tom Herman. “He has his own terminology, I want him to be comfortable.”
Herman admitted Meyer only needed minor convincing toward accepting his up-tempo, no-huddle offense. “He dipped his big toe in the water,” Herman said, “now he’s all in.” Not a bad convincing job for an OC who had never met Meyer before he got a phone call from him last year. “I thought I was getting pranked by my buddies,” Herman joked.
Around 3 PM Saturday, the Scarlet and Gray were joking and smiling. One win under their belts, and it was time to celebrate. Meyer’s wife, Shelley, had joined the team arm-in-arm, wearing her new Buckeye flip-flops, singing Carmen Ohio. Her husband, staring up at the student section, had a reflective look on his face.
Sometimes you can return Home.