"I got into coaching 25 years ago for guys like Joe Paterno, Bo Schembechler, and the Earl Bruces of the world,” Urban Meyer said. “The unselfishness, the teamwork, the struggle. I think Bo said one of the greatest quotes when he talked about football in 1903. He said football is not a fad and it's turning into a fad. It's different - with all due respect - than some sports. You have to love football. Football separates people in practice.
“If you have a bad football day, you have a real bad day. I think the last line of that quote is you have to love the struggle and I'm concerned. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and it's part of life right now and I hope to see it come back to the way it was. It was a team sport with guys doing things the right way. Guys getting educations and graduating from college and looking at their college experience as the greatest experience they've ever had. That's what I love college football for."
The frustrations around the job now come in similar reasons to why Meyer stepped down. He sees the toll that his job took on his family. Meyer recalls a five-year period where his family lived in four different states. It was difficult for his children to continue making friends and changing schools.
“They sacrificed for us, now we're going to sacrifice for those kids,” Meyer said. “Not many people have the opportunity to give back to people that have given so much to us. Those people are those three kids. They deserve to have their dad to watch some games and be around. I think last December was kind of a frontal blow and we said let's evaluate this whole thing here for a minute and we did. I was planning on coming back and I was excited about it. Then one morning I woke up and after careful prayer and discussion I just made the decision."
INJURY REPORT: Janoris Jenkins, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders and Maurice Hurt will all miss Saturday’s Outback Bowl because of injury. Jenkins tore his labrum early in the season and played through the injury.
"I want to say (the injury happened) second or third week of the season and he's been strapped down all year,” Meyer said. “He fought through it. He's a competitor and he never missed practice. He never missed anything. It got really bad near the end but he's doing great, he's a competitor and it got really bad near the end. He was strapped down. But you saw the way he played like an all- conference player. It's a couple months (recovery).”
Meyer said he hasn’t spoken with Jenkins about how the injury will effect his decision to go early to the NFL or return for his senior season.
"We'll usually wait until after the bowl game for all of that," Meyer said.
Jeremy Brown will start at cornerback, with Moses Jenkins and Cody Riggs splitting time at the other spot.
The game is being billed as Meyer’s coaching finale for the Gators, but it will also send out a senior class that has experienced plenty of success. Marsh and Sanders were the starting defensive tackles on the 2008 national championship team at a unit that didn’t have much depth.
"Marsh had a great year the national championship year and then in '09 he was hurt and this year he's been hurt,” Meyer said. “He's one of our captains and he's a great young man. He graduated but he won't play. The other one inside that got hurt is Terron Sanders and I'm more concerned because he's my guy in punt. But Omar Hunter is going to take his spot in punt, and inside you're going to have Omar Hunter and Jaye Howard, and you're going to have Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, so we have a little bit of depth there.
“Brandon Antwine is really feeling well. Brandon Antwine is a great player. He's just had those injuries as well throughout his career. The five-technique is another issue so Jaye Howard will play five-technique as well as inside. It will be a little bit of rotation in there but I think we'll be alright.”
LOOKING FOR THE FUTURE: Will Muschamp continues to recruit and watch the Gators practice as he waits to officially become Florida’s head coach. There would be worry from Meyer if he had questions about the quality of Muschamp as a coach or a person, but in their new friendship, Meyer couldn’t be more impressed with Muschamp.
"The guy we hired is fantastic,” Meyer said. “That eases a lot of burden on the players and the coaches. When something happens, everybody starts this nonsense about I'm going to do this or do that but they're not doing anything. They're at Florida. We hired a coach with intensity and energy and it's been fantastic. I've really enjoyed these last two weeks. I had fun at practice yesterday with the players and if there's ever a good time, I think this is it."
Muschamp has watched the Gators in some of their practices before Christmas. However, Meyer and his coaching staff are still running the team.
"Oh no, it's our team,” Meyer said. “It's ours until January 1 at 8 o’clock at night. The good thing is it's always going to be our team. This is just one of those separations that it's not one of those nasty, ugly separations. It's one of those things where I'll always be a Gator, love Gators, love my bosses and I really admire this new coach. I think he's going to do a great job."
Once the calendar turns to January 2, the team becomes Muschamp’s. He will announce a staff with multiple new assistant coaches. While Meyer said he remains a Gator, he will have plenty of options to stay busy.
One of those comes with a potential job working for ESPN.
"I took my family up to New York City,” Meyer said. “That's where they wanted to go and it was one of the greatest things we've ever had together and they (ESPN) called up and said why don't you drive up for the day. I brought my son and he loved it. What I found out is what a great place with great people. I have no idea, I'm not concerned about that until after the 1st, but I'll have to do something if Coach Paterno doesn't hire me as a GA."