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From the Diamond to the Gridiron: A Conversation with National Championship Football Coach and Little League® Graduate Urban Meyer

Volume 3 | Issue 8 | August/September 2015 | Archive
From the Diamond to the Gridiron: A Conversation with National Championship Football Coach and Little League® Graduate Urban Meyer
In the modern-era of college football, Urban Meyer has become a coaching icon. As head coach of the 2014 NCAA National Champion Ohio State University Buckeyes, he is one of only two head coaches to lead two different schools to Division I college football national titles. Coach Meyer spent his childhood in Ashtabula, Ohio, and played baseball in the Ashtabula American Little League.

Little League® spoke with Coach Meyer about his Little League days with his family, how Little League prepared him for his professional career, and the importance of youth sports.

Little League: How would you describe yourself as a Little Leaguer®?

Urban Meyer: I was always one of the smaller and younger guys. I was almost a year younger than everybody else on my team. I wasn’t very big, but I developed into a pretty good player. I was one of those kids that lived for every day in Little League. It was my favorite thing, and I was all in.

LL: What is your favorite Little League memory?

UM: I finally made an All-Star team when I was 12 years old. I’ll never forget that the league gave us a patch to sew on our jerseys. When you were done playing you got to keep the patch, and I’ve kept it forever.

LL: Growing up, what did Little League mean to your family?

UM: Little League was our whole world. My parents were involved in everything. In Ashtabula, Little League was such a big deal. It was bigger than life … it was just great! I remember every year we’d clean up the fields. My dad and I would grab a shovel and rake, and we’d be there for clean-up day.

Urban Meyer and his son Nate at a Cleveland Indians game.
LL: Describe what Little League does to bring communities together?

UM: As a family, we’ve had great experiences with Little League. My son and one of my daughters played Little League Baseball when we were in Bowling Green (Ohio) and Utah. When I was coaching at Bowling Green (University), the kids played Little League at Carter Park. Little League brings communities together. When I played in Ashtabula, everyone was down there. The grills were going, and even if I wasn’t playing, my family would spend the day at the park.

LL: What do you think are the benefits of a child participating in Little League?

UM: I think it should be mandatory. My children had no choice, but to play Little League. I had a great experience playing, and my kids really enjoyed it too. The opportunities that Little League offers children is awesome!

LL: Do you feel that your Little League experience as a parent and player has helped prepare you for your career?

UM: If you look at our football program, you see a team-first approach. I learned the team concept in Little League. The Ohio State Buckeyes are taught the same qualities that I learned as a Little Leaguer. I credit my family and my Little League coaches for teaching me those lessons.

LL: What other sports did you play while growing up?

UM: Baseball was big for me. I played basketball in grade school, and didn’t start playing football until seventh grade. Baseball was my sport, and Little League was it.

LL: What is your position on young athletes specializing in one sport?

UM: I am opposed to pushing kids into one sport at an early age. Every parent, and every young person, has to decide what is best for them. In my son’s case, he plays two sports. My daughters didn’t specialize until high school. I do worry about kids getting burnt out.

LL: What about the Little League Baseball® World Series makes it such a special event?

UM: When I watch, I see the purity of the kids playing. I love watching the kids going out there, playing and learning what it means to be part of team at such an early age.

A Football Coach’s Baseball Roots

After graduating from Ashtabula's Saint John High School in 1982, the Atlanta Braves selected Urban Meyer, a standout shortstop, in the 13th round of the MLB Draft. He spent two seasons playing minor league baseball in the Braves organization.

In 1984, Coach Meyer enrolled in the University of Cincinnati, and played defensive back for the Bearcats for just one season before setting his sights on the sidelines. The following year, he interned as a defensive back coach at Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati. His first collegiate coaching position was a two-year stint as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under head coach Earle Bruce. He spent the next 13 years as an assistant coach, before his 2001 hire as head coach at Bowling Green University (BGU).

After two seasons at BGU, Coach Meyer moved on to the University of Utah. In his second season, the Utes finished 12-0, their first undefeated season since 1930.

Coach Meyer’s success caught the attention of the University of Florida. In 2005, he took over the Gators’ football program. One year later, his team won the first of its two national championships (2006 and 2008).

Beginning in 2010, Coach Meyer spent a few years away from the sidelines, becoming a college football commentator and analyst for ESPN. Coach Meyer took over the Buckeyes football program before the start of the 2012 season.

Coach Meyer, and his wife Shelley, have three children: Nicole (Nicki), Gisela (Gigi) and Nathan (Nate). The family resides in Dublin, Ohio.
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The Parent Connection - August/September 2015 - Archive