WINTERSVILLE - It's been some 17 years since Lou Holtz offered a young Urban Meyer a job as receivers' coach at Notre Dame University.
However, Meyer has learned through the years that even though he's become one of the most successful head coaches in the country, that he'll always "work for Coach Holtz."
"I remember my interview with Coach Holtz," Meyer recalled. "He asked me if I'd done anything to embarrass myself, my family or Notre Dame University. I thought to myself, 'hell yeah, but this is not the time to tell him.'"
OHIO STATE head football coach Urban Meyer addresses the crowd at the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame induction ceremony held Monday evening at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville. Meyer was inducted to the hall of fame in 2009 as the Distinguished American for his work as the head coach at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green. Meyer worked for Holtz for one season as wide receiver coach at Notre Dame.
Keeping that thought in mind, Meyer - who is now the head coach at The Ohio State University - had no choice but to say yes when Holtz approached him about serving as the keynote speaker at the 15th annual Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held Monday evening at St. Florian Hall.
"Coach Holtz was a game changer for me, so there was no chance I was saying no to speak at this event," Meyer said.
This was Meyer's second time at the Holtz Hall of Fame Banquet. He received the Distinguished American Award in 2009 when he was coaching at the University of Florida.
"I think this (Hall of Fame) is the ultimate in giving back to your community," Meyer said. "Coach Holtz worked for Woody Hayes and it's that whole pay forward mentality."
Meyer's speaking schedule continued this morning when he joined OSU luminaries Clark Kellogg, Eddie George, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Spielman at a breakfast event hosted by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
Thus, his speech was moved to the first thing after dinner and he departed shortly thereafter for a private flight back to Columbus.
Meyer's speech included humor and a lot of charisma from the Buckeyes' coach, who continues to strive to "make the great state of Ohio proud."
"We're looking forward to the season, but we'll have to continue to develop leadership," Meyer said.
Looking back at the 2012 season, Meyer cut to the chase about what separated that team from the others he's coached.
Because, as he pointed out, when the bowl ban was announced by the NCAA, the players had the opportunity to leave for greener pastures, but instead they bought into what Meyer was preaching and the results certainly speak for themselves.
Meyer spoke of two main reasons why players didn't bail.
"The first was their genuine love for Ohio State University," Meyer said. "How cool is that? A group of guys with a genuine love for their school. Secondly, and I get chills just thinking about it, those guys had a genuine love and respect for each other. That doesn't happen every day. I credit last season to the most incredible leadership I've ever been a part of."
Meyer is heading on a family vacation in the coming days to get a good recharge prior to fall camp opening in early August as preparations for the Aug. 31 opener against Buffalo begin.
"We've got about two weeks off and then we'll be ready to get back at it," Meyer said.
The last few weeks have seen Meyer and the Buckeyes' staff hitting the recruiting trail hard along with hosting several summer camps for high school students.
"We had a lot of activity with kids visiting and camps," Meyer said.
This past Februrary, Meyer and the Buckeyes landed one of the top recruiting classes in America. So, when you consider the likes of Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller at quarterback, running back Carlos Hyde, wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Smith, defensive standouts such as Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby all returning from a 12-0 squad combined with the new faces, it's obvious to see why expectations are so high in Columbus.
"I love my team and I love our players, and I think we're headed in the right direction," Meyer said.
Plus, the Buckeyes come off their one season of being banned from a bowl game due to NCAA infractions committed by the previous coaching staff.
Despite all of that, the Buckeyes' staff can not and will not take anything for granted.
"The term easier doesn't exisit," Meyer said. "Every day is a new challenge. Our kids did well in the classroom and there are so many good things going on with our players and that correlates well to the field."
While he's asked about it frequently, Meyer doesn't think that the Buckeyes' ability to now play for the Big Ten title and also play in a bowl game will benefit or hurt his team whatsoever.
"It's a day-to-day battle," Meyer said. "We played for real last year and there was a lot on the line last year (despite the bowl ban). If we have to come up with ways to motivate our team, then we're not going to be very good. I don't like where we're at, I love where we're at, but we have to continue to make sure our team's on edge."
Major college and professional athletes thrive on and understand expectations from the get-go. They're there from the outset and they only get bigger. That's why Meyer believes his team will be mentally ready for the challenge of what's in store.
"When a player signs a scholarship to Ohio State, there are high expectations," Meyer said. "There were high expectations last year and there will be high expectations this year, so that really doesn't come into the conversation."
One thing's for sure, Meyer isn't going to let the Buckeyes become complacent or lose sight of the main goals, which continues to be get better every week and make the great state of Ohio proud.
ALONG WITH Meyer, Holtz and Phil Niekro, the list of sports personalities didn't end there. Also on hand at the banquet were former Pittsburgh Pirates' broadcaster Lanny Fratare, current Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and Kent State University football coach Paul Haynes.
FOUR RECENT area graduates received $2,000 scholarships courtesy of the Holtz Hall of Fame. Those were David Edge (Bridgeport), Ron Hamilton (Buckeye Local), Raelyn Marker (Harrison Central) and Amanda Singhaus (Martins Ferry).
MARTINS FERRY teacher Jim Fogle received a $500 teacher grant courtesy of the Bruney Family Grant, which is sponsored by Don Reese, a former Martins Ferry High standout quarterback.
MEYER WASN'T surprised by the amount of money generated and donated back through scholarships and grants.
"That's Coach Holtz," Meyer said. "He's bigger than life, but he's still got a great affection for where he came from."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org