SEC Spring Meetings: Florida Gators' Urban Meyer, A Champion Reinvented

Brad GoldbachCorrespondent IJune 2, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 24-51 during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In December, Urban Meyer shocked the college football world by announcing that he was going to resign as coach of the Florida Gators.

On Tuesday, the former king showed that he is capable of perhaps also being the future king, but he would do it with a different approach. According to various reports from the SEC Spring Meetings, this approach included a former Meyer rarity: a smile.

Meyer has come a long way from those dark days in December.

Fresh off two national championships in the last two seasons, it was the rare occasion of a sports figure retiring while in his prime and at the pinnacle of his profession.

Meyer cited health reasons and the need to spend more time with his family.

The next day, Meyer took the practice field with his Florida squad and realized that he loved the game and his players too much to walk away. The man was lucky to have not only one, but two families that he loved to be with.

The trick was how to balance both of those while also putting his health first.

Meyer was known as a very intense man who was able to get the most out of every one of his players.

He put everything he had into coaching the team, and to great success, with three 13-win seasons to go with those two rings in four seasons.

But sometimes great responsibility comes at the cost of a great sacrifice. In this case it was Meyer's health.

All of that success came while working ungodly hours and spending every waking moment—eating, sleeping, breathing, thinking—focused on football.

So it's no surprise that he skipped meals and eventually his health went by the wayside. He reportedly had undisclosed chest pains that are now being medicated. On Tuesday, he revealed that those pains stemmed from "esophageal spasms."

He also lost a lot of weight and looked like a shell of his former self. All of that weight is back.

Meyer even came to the SEC Spring Meetings with that aforementioned smile and a tan.

Needless to say, Meyer is looking better than ever.

Meyer took a lot of time off in the offseason to be with his family. He even joked about meeting the Pope, according to ESPN SEC blogger Chris Lowe.

Joking aside, the question all along was how would Meyer be able to dial back the intensity while keeping his winning ways in check.

With his best recruiting class ever in the offseason, Meyer may not have yet answered that question, but he did provide himself with plenty of ammunition to do so.

Meyer has always been a players' coach (see his ripping of a Gators beat reporter for a questionable article on Deonte Thompson in spring practice). Players reportedly cried when he announced his resignation to the team because he was seen as a father figure to many.

As Meyer reinvents himself, he will not lose any of that sway with his players. He will only have gained it tenfold.

Expect Meyer to also be sharper on and off the football field as his health has become a priority. No matter how much vacation time he has taken this offseason, he will always be completely devoted to football. With better health, his focusing and thinking can only become sharper. 

If you were already afraid to face the Florida Gators year in and year out, now is the time to start panicking again.

Urban's seemingly looser mentality will be questioned by many proponents of the hard-ass football approach. But Pete Carroll did just fine by adding fun to the football mix (at least until his recruiting gaffes caught up with him—don't expect that to happen with Meyer).

A better comparison may be Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who spoke earlier this year with Meyer about his own reinvention after a back injury and two hip replacement surgeries. Krzyzewski seems to be doing just fine these days, especially with that new shiny championship ring on his finger.

I'm sure many of Meyer's players have seen this soft side of him before, although probably not on the practice field. But the man who is able to motivate his stars to fight for a spot on special teams will certainly earn his players' trust even more with these recent events.

It remains to be seen how the new Urban Meyer performs when the games count. But a man who is willing to adjust his entire lifestyle will certainly be able to make the key game plan adjustments that lead to success.

There are many instances in which reinvention has been a miserable failure, but this is not one of those cases.

This is one of those times when one of college football's best coaches may actually become better, especially because he is doing it for all the right reasons.

If the best aging superstars are able to reinvent themselves to stay on top, why can't the best coaches do the same?

You may doubt the new Urban Meyer, but don't let that newfound smile fool you. He is back and better than ever.


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