Urban Meyer can remember being in church, sitting in a pew worshipping with his family long before the craziness began last December. And texting on his phone. To a recruit.
"You're talking certifiable," Meyer said. "They'd lock you up if they really knew."
Now we finally do. For the first time since his bizarre, 24-hour resignation and return in December, Meyer sat down away from the hectic zoo at the recent SEC Media Days to talk about life away from the game — and how it has changed him over the last seven months.
"I'm as jacked as I have ever been (to coach)," Meyer said.
That's because for the first time in his coaching career, he finally got away from the game in the offseason. For more than a few days at a time, and more than time away from the office. He even turned off his Blackberry for days at a time.
He visited Israel and Italy. He went to Hawaii and the Bahamas and spent extended time at his lake house in Melrose, a tiny town 20 miles outside Gainesville. He visited Nazareth and Bethlehem, and he walked the Steps of Christ. He was as close as you can possibly get to Pope Benedict.
"He came by in the Popemobile and got out," Meyer said. "I mean, I was 10 yards away from him. I could hear him. It was awesome."
This time last year, Meyer was coming off a second national championship in three years but never felt physically worse. He had been dealing with pains in his chest for three years, and couldn't get answers from doctors who couldn't find anything wrong.
He was coaching at the highest level of college football, in a conference that chews up coaches — after just five seasons in Gainesville, he is tied for second in tenure among coaches at their current SEC schools — those weekly episodes of chest pains wouldn't go away.
"That's way beyond coaching," Meyer said. "You're talking about life; what comes next? Three straight years of that."
He was eventually diagnosed with esophageal spasms, and now takes fish oil and Nexium to eliminate the pain. He has gained the 20 pounds he lost during last year's emotionally draining defense of Florida's national championship, and has learned, he says, to empower his assistants to handle some of the coaching load.
"That wasn't easy; it's not who I am," Meyer said. "You get your hands in it and make sure it's done right because it's your hands on it."
A few months ago, Meyer visited with Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno on the annual Nike coaching trip, only this time he talked at length about family life away from football, and how two coaching giants balanced life and jobs.
There's a reason those two coaching giants lasted so long in their professions, and had so much success on and off the field.
"Two great men who know what family means and how important it is," Meyer said. "Just a bigger-than-life mentality."
Without the certifiable behavior.
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