The record books say it loud and clear: Among college football coaches, Urban Meyer is in elite company.
Meyer — fresh off a win in the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship in his third season at Ohio State — now has three national titles as a head coach. The first two of those championships came at Florida, and Monday night’s win against Oregon made it three.
He’s not the first coach to win titles at two different schools, but only one other coach has done it before — current Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Meyer said he understands the honor of joining such exclusive company, and stressed the success is a testament to his players as well.
“I’m very humbled that you brought that up, but I’m also the first one to appreciate the people who did it, and that’s our players,” Meyer said after beating Oregon. “I love these guys.
“We’re officially brothers for the rest of our lives because we’re champions.”
While Meyer has forged that championship brotherhood with teams in the past, winning a title with the 2014 Buckeyes came under different circumstances.
Less than two weeks before the start of the season, Meyer and his staff had to prepare a brand-new starting quarterback to replace senior Braxton Miller after the Heisman candidate tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder. Then after redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett won his first game, the Buckeyes fell to unranked Virginia Tech in their home opener.
Fast-forward to the regular-season finale and OSU had already locked up its spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but Barrett fractured his ankle in the win against the Michigan Wolverines, and OSU learned of the death of teammate Kosta Karageorge a day later.
Insert former third-string quarterback and redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones, and many had written the Buckeyes off when it came to postseason play. Seated just inches from Jones after the championship game, Meyer noted the unusual circumstances that led to his third title.
“I’ve got my third-string quarterback sitting here to my left,” Meyer said. “I’ve never met a third-string quarterback before, and he’s 3-0.”
While Jones did send a sideways glare toward his coach at the mention of “third-string,” he credited Meyer on Tuesday for finding a way to take the team to the top.
“The way that coach Meyer motivates, teaches and demands the best out of each player in different ways is unbelievable,” Jones said during a press conference.
The Cleveland native explained that Meyer has a connection with his team in that he knows how to get the best out of each individual player, whether it be Jones or a player like redshirt-sophomore safety Tyvis Powell, who was named the defensive player of the game against Oregon.
“You know, he dealt with me and Tyvis in different ways,” Jones said. “He (Meyer) gets the best out of us in different ways. Even in the same room as far as the quarterbacks, so the way that he demands and gets the best out of us is second to none, and that’s why we’re sitting here today.”
Beyond getting the best out of individual players, Powell stressed that Meyer can also mold players to play for each other on the field.
“Coming in and learning the things that he (Meyer) taught about us just being selfless and playing for each other, I mean, that’s just something that I’m going to take for the rest of my life because when you play for somebody else, it’s like you play even harder,” Powell said at the press conference Tuesday. “And that’s what I think helped this team get to where we’re at because everybody started playing for selfless reasons, started playing for each other, and the leadership just took over, and the team just became unbelievable.”
Now looking to the future, Meyer will try to mold a new team — that includes many returning players — on and off the field for the goal of another playoff run, and another title.
The Buckeyes’ 2015 season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va., against the Hokies of Virginia Tech.