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August 31, 2012

Meyer excited to experience, create traditions

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Urban Meyer won't make his debut as Ohio State's head coach until tomorrow afternoon, but he already knows what it feels like to be fired by his current employer.

Serving as a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes in 1987, Meyer was let go as a part of former OSU head coach Earle Bruce's staff when Bruce was fired prior to that season's game against Michigan. Meyer's first taste of temporary unemployment sent him on a 25-year journey that has now brought him back to Columbus.

Perhaps his quarter-century absence from the school he grew up watching as a child in Ashtabula, Ohio is one of the many reasons why Meyer holds Ohio State's traditions so near and dear to his heart.

There might be a new coach in town, but tomorrow's OSU game day will start the same way that every Buckeyes home game has began in recent memory for the football team. The OSU head coach will lead the Buckeyes on a walk from their team hotel to St. John Arena, where Meyer will get to witness his first 'skull session' performed by the OSU marching band.

"I've never witnessed that when we were in Ohio 25 years ago," Meyer said. "It's a great idea. Can't wait to be a part of it."

After watching the band perform, the Buckeyes will then make the march to Ohio Stadium, and begin their game day preparations and warmups for their meeting with Miami (OH). But with 23 minutes to go until kickoff, Meyer will debut a new tradition in The Horseshoe.

A week ago, Meyer sent a YouTube video to the OSU student body explaining a pre-game routine he wanted to implement known as "quick cals." With 23 minutes left until kickoff, the Buckeyes and director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti will head over to the student section and lead the OSU fans in their pre-game ritual, which consists of following Marotti's lead with various claps and hand gestures.

"My dream is to see that entire stadium before a big game getting ready to rock and roll with 23 minutes left," Meyer said. "The last thing we do before we go in the locker room is address our student body with some kind of energy."

Meyer said that including the fans in the Buckeyes' quick cals routine goes naturally with his plan to make the entire Ohio State community a part of the game day experience.

"We always sometimes, not always, but we lose sight of why we do what we do," Meyer said. "One is to enhance the collegiate experience. I love students. That's a big reason why I do what I do and our coaches do what they do. We believe in that."

But while the Buckeyes fans might get a kick out of warming up alongside their football team, Meyer admitted that his players have something to gain from the quick cals as well.

"For selfish reasons, maybe our guys will- that helps them get ready to play," Meyer said. "But I think also in an unselfish reason it's given ownership of the program to our students"

After heading back to the locker room following quick cals, Meyer will then prepare for a moment that he's dreamed about since he was a kid: running out of the tunnel and onto the Ohio Stadium field as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

I'll carry a little folder and keep my face in the game, and not worry when 'Hang on Sloopy' gets played. But it's real. I have to do that because I'll be coming out of my shoes a little bit," Meyer said. "It's going to be an emotional time."

As a player who will be running onto the field for a Buckeyes' home opener for the fifth time tomorrow, OSU linebacker Etienne Sabino is anxious to see how his coach responds to the experience.

"I can only imagine. I'm excited to actually see it," Sabino said. "He brings a lot of energy to the table. I see him in practice, I can only imagine what game day's going to be like."

Following the team's post-game singing of the school's alma mater, 'Carmen, Ohio,' Meyer will have completed his first game day as the Buckeyes' head coach- a job he feels much more prepared for than he would have when he last coached at Ohio State.

"My lifestyle in '87, I didn't eat if I didn't know where the happy hours were or if Wendy's didn't have their $2 special on salads," Meyer said. "Am I ready for this? We'll all judge that here probably in the next week or next two weeks, next two years."

But regardless of how his next stint at OSU ends, Meyer is just thankful to be getting another chance to work for the school he grew up rooting for.

"That's the kind of neat thing about where I'm at in my career. I don't care. I want to work on getting this team ready for Miami, Ohio," Meyer said. "I'm not worried about what's the legacy, what's this, what's that. I want to make the great state of Ohio proud and win this darned game coming up."



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