In Urban Meyer’s first team meeting as Utah football coach, he indicated to his players that he was going places fast, and only those who put in the effort would be able to keep up.
"There are only seven or eight teams in the nation who really know how to work and get things done," Meyer told the Utes, dropping jaws with his clarity and conviction. "You will be one of those teams."
Two years, 21 wins and a Bowl Championship Series appearance later, Meyer kept his word. The quickness of Utah’s ascension was exceeded only by the meteoric rise of its coach, who leads the Utes for the final time in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
After being mentioned for just about every high-profile vacancy in the nation — including Notre Dame, which made Meyer its first choice after firing Tyrone Willingham — he signed a seven-year, $14 million deal at Florida.
Pretty heady stuff for the former Notre Dame assistant who coached two years at Bowling Green and two seasons at Utah before accepting what he calls the premier job in college sports.
"I haven’t had a lot of time to sit back and reflect on it, when you’ve got recruiting to do and prepare for the Fiesta Bowl," Meyer said.
"But it has moved fast. It’s hard to think that four or five years ago, I was a receivers coach at Notre Dame, and now this."
What is it about Meyer that made him such a hot commodity? It was a lot of things.
First and foremost, the wins. A 38-8 record in four seasons.
At 40 years old, he possesses the youthful enthusiasm to rally a team, a student body and a community. It was his idea to put on the Utes’ helmets a decal that reads "The MUSS" — which stands for The Mighty Utah Student S ection at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The spread offense that Meyer has designed generates yards at computer-like speed. At Florida, it just might do the unthinkable — make fans forget Steve Spurrier’s "Fun ’n’ Gun" attack.
Perhaps most important, Meyer preaches, coaches and lives the values of organization and preparation. He demands the same from his players, and those who do not oblige are "weeded out," as safety Morgan Scalley said.
"I don’t know what athletic directors look for in a coach, but to me, Coach Meyer has a perfect understanding of what a program needs to have to be successful," middle linebacker Tommy Hackenbruck said.
"He’s good with the student body and the boosters, and he is a players’ coach who will still discipline you if it needs to be done. He has the total understanding of what it takes to be a model team."
As the Utah victories and interest from other schools piled up, Meyer had a conversation with Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, who once had the opportunity to take the Miami (Fla.) job, which he turned down.
Once a week, Lubick told Meyer, he thinks about what if he had taken the Miami job. Meyer did not forget that comment.