Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has quite a history of developing quarterbacks, turning them into winners and teaching them leadership skills that last a lifetime. His two years in Utah were spent coaching up current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, ultimately leading the Utes to an undefeated record and a Fiesta Bowl victory in his second and final season in Salt Lake City. That entire story played out on a national scale, earning Smith the first overall draft slot in the 2005 NFL Draft and Meyer the head coaching spot at the University of Florida.
He became a rock star in Gainesville, ultimately winning two national championships and helping to turn a young, inspired quarterback named Tim into the Heisman Trophy winning Tim Tebow that we know today.
In short, he loves the quarterback position. Upon being hired at The Ohio State University late last year, he was asked in his introductory press conference about current Buckeyes’ quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn’t play the unbiased, politically correct card in answering by giving us some vanilla answer about teamwork. Instead, he gushed with admiration about the quarterback he had in front of him for the foreseeable future.
“To tell you I’m excited to coach him, I’m not using the correct adjectives, and because there’s mixed company around, I’m not going to use the correct adjectives for how excited I am,” Meyer said. “So I think you get it, right? Really excited.”
The future of Ohio State football looks very bright with the Meyer-Miller combination in place, but Urban and his quarterback haven’t always been in the national spotlight. When he took over as head coach at Bowling Green State University in 2001, his first position as the head of a collegiate program, he inherited a running back turned back-up quarterback named Josh Harris. He spent that initial off-season riding the young kid to find out what he had, and quickly found that he had the exact signal caller that he needed to turn the 2-9 program around.
Harris would spend his two years under Meyer, as a sophomore and junior, racking up nearly 5,000 yards of total offense and seventeen wins. Meyer left for Utah before Harris’ senior season, but he went on to double his career output in his final season as a Falcon by putting up 3,800 passing yards, another 830 on the ground and accounting for forty more touchdowns.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Urban’s first collegiate quarterback this week to talk Meyer, Miller, what he sees for the future of Ohio State football and exactly what a simple show of trust from your head coach can do for a young man.
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Buckeye Empire: Coach Meyer obviously has a successful history mentoring quarterbacks. What was he able to do for you during your two years under center with Urban as your head coach?
Josh Harris: Coach does a great job of doing a number of things….creating a high level of competition at each position which helped me push myself harder, but I would say the biggest thing that he helped me to do was to raise my expectation level. I had to bring my expectation level up to the level that he had for me. When I did that I started to BELIEVE the results that we were seeing on the field, and it gave me a more genuine confidence.
BE: What’s your fondest memory of quarterbacking for Urban Meyer, the coach?
JH: My fondest is probably an overtime victory vs Western Michigan…I had sprained my knee early in the game and by the overtime it had stiffened up. When we got the ball he asked me how I felt and what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to throw the ball…we called six plays, and five of them were quarterback runs!!! But I scored the game winning touchdown.
BE: What’s your fondest memory of Urban Meyer, the man?
JH: Fondest memory of Coach as a man would probably have to be the time we were able to spend together a few years ago at an event that he returned to BG to speak at. I had an opportunity to spend some time with him afterwards and we were able to talk and catch up with the different things that had been happening in both of our lives.
BE: Let’s rewind a bit – what do you remember about his first day on the job, and what was your impression of him? Did you hit it off right away, or were you apprehensive?
JH: I remember the first 3 rules he implemented…and I remember thinking….”that’s strange, where’s he coming from with this stuff?” The rules were…Love and respect the game of football, Love and respect your teammates and Love and respect the University. It took me a while, but I began to understand what he meant by each of them. I don’t think we really hit it off right away, because I think coach may have thought I was lazy….but I wasn’t apprehensive about him at all….the stuff we were doing just felt impossible. But I never wanted to disappoint him and I pushed as hard as I could to make sure I didn’t.
BE: What was the most difficult part of being Urban Meyer’s quarterback?
JH: The expectation level is so high, not only from your physical play, but also your leadership ability. Getting a bunch of men on the same page in a really fast paced environment is a huge challenge and as his quarterback you are just as responsible for that stuff as the coaches are….at least that’s the way I felt.
BE: Do you still stay in contact with Coach Meyer, especially now that he’s back in Ohio?
JH: I do still talk to Coach. I know he’s busy, but I touch base with him and even visit with him periodically.
BE: Give me a story about a specific game, or situation, where you and Coach Meyer were able to succeed together as QB and coach?
JH: In that same overtime game vs Western Michigan, I didn’t start off the game well…and we were down 14-0 quickly….after faltering on another possession, Coach actually faked the punt…and when I ran back onto the field he winked at me, as if to say, I got your back and I believe in you. That gave me the confidence after a slow start to finish on fire.
BE: Is the hype surrounding Coach Meyer within Buckeye Nation warranted, or are fans getting their hopes up too high? If you haven’t noticed, expectations are officially through the roof…
JH: Coach has worked his butt off and has left a trail of success everywhere he has gone. He deserves all the hype that he gets because he has earned. I believe he is the BEST Coach in the business. Mixing Coach Meyer with an amazing institution, with such prestige and tradition as OSU, is a dangerous combination and should be fun to watch. He is a developer of men, leaders and football players….probably in that order….and that makes it possible for him to get the MOST out of each of his guys…
BE: What are your thoughts on Braxton Miller?
JH: I think that Braxton, and all of the other Buckeyes for that matter, have an amazing platform to perform on…and a coach that will help them develop their talents and put them in the best positions to win. Braxton is obviously super talented and physically gifted. His ability to pick up and transfer the things he learns from coach in the meetings to the field and lead his teammates will make all the difference in the world!
BE: Last one. Given one word to describe Urban Meyer, what would you say?
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