Meyer trying to block out farewell aspect

Bill Rabinowitz
Urban Meyer (Foto: Photo by Kyle Robertson)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The farewell tour for Urban Meyer and many of his players has started, even if it’s something the Ohio State coach doesn’t want to spend much time contemplating.

The Buckeyes arrived in California on Tuesday for their Rose Bowl game against Washington. Wednesday was their first practice at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles.

“I try to avoid it at all costs, but it catches you once in awhile,” Meyer said of realizing he’s coaching his final game. “Today on the practice field, I was looking around (thinking about it). I just love this group of players I’m around.”

Meyer, along with captains Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin and Jordan Fuller, spent part of Wednesday at Disneyland.

“I rode a roller coaster for the first time in about 15 years, and I survived it so we’re good,” Meyer said. “I had to sit with Parris and we held hands tightly the whole way.”

He was kidding about holding hands, though Meyer isn’t really the roller coaster type.

“I was surprised (he rode it), but we wouldn’t have let him live it down,” McLaurin said. “We would have probably teased him for the rest of the trip.”

Bowl games are always a balance of fun and game preparation. Meyer said that Wednesday’s practice wasn’t the sharpest, noting that receivers dropped too many passes. But he wasn’t alarmed.

“It’s not our first Jan. 1 or big-time bowl game,” he said. “You just try to get Christmas out of them. That’s what I tell our coaches — get Christmas out of them, and we did.”

Meyer was accompanied at Disneyland by his daughter Gigi and son Nate. His older daughter, Nicki, and Ohio State assistant quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis had their second son, Urban Gray Dennis, on Friday.

Meyer was still beaming about that.

“It is awesome,” he said. “My daughter did great. She’s a pro.”

Meyer’s grandson will go by his middle name.

“Gray Dennis. I told people that’s a bad-ass name,” Meyer said. “He better hit you when he becomes a defensive back one day.”

So the new granddad will be coaching for the first time in the game known as the "Granddaddy" of all the bowls.

“That is pretty hokey,” Meyer said. “It is big, though.”

Meyer grew up in Ashtabula during the 1970s when a Big Ten team’s biggest goal was to play in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes would prefer to be playing in the College Football Playoff semifinals, of course, but they understand how special Pasadena remains.

“It’s shocking that in 25 years we’ve only been here twice,” Meyer said. “Then I heard (Washington coach) Chris Petersen say they haven’t been here in 18 years.”

Meyer has won three national championships and has had a career that will land him in the College Football Hall of Fame one day. As uncomfortable as he is with so much of the attention that will be on him this week, he said it does feel right that, short of making the playoff, his career will end here.

“It does,” he said. “I didn’t realize it until I really think about it. To never have the chance to coach in the Rose Bowl and say, ‘I’m done,’ that would have been very hard.”