“What’s Urban Meyer really like?”a friend asked me last night.
As I tried to come up with an answer that adequately describes the Ohio State coach, a barrage of adjectives flooded my mind: Kind. Compassionate. Caring. The list goes on and on.
My perspective on Coach Meyer is unique, because I’ve had the blessing of meeting him and his wife. People ask me all the time how I root for Ohio State, and the answer is simple: Because Coach and Ms. Shelley are amazing.
I first met Coach Meyer two and a half years ago, at the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. I’d gone as a surprise birthday present, and that day is one I’ll never forget. Over the course of six hours, I met so many people that I’d either listened to on the radio or watched on TV for years. They were all so nice, and being able to hug Timmy and tell him how much he inspires me meant more to me than I could ever explain.
Coach Meyer is someone else who gives me inspiration and encouragement. He was the first coach I ever watched lead the Florida Gators, and I can’t count how many times my father would remind me of the way he pushes his team as I went through physical therapy and the other obstacles cerebral palsy brings. “He pushes them to the max,” Dad would tell me. “That’s why he’s successful. You have to push yourself that way, too.” I’d always had a feeling that he was a great man in addition to being a great coach, and I found out at the golf tournament that day that I’d been right.
He was the last golfer to come to our hole, and I remember nervous adrenaline pumping through my veins as he made his way toward me. Before I could figure out what to say, Coach Meyer told me, “I’m going to give you a huge hug” and then did exactly that. The kind way he spoke to me made my nerves disappear. I noticed right away that more than anything else, he’s a father. He made me feel comfortable and he made me feel normal at a time when I often felt like my disability defined me.
A year later, six months after Timmy and his foundation granted my W15H, I gave a speech at their Celebrity Gala. My dad stepped out of the room for a moment not long after I spoke, and when he came back, he was wearing a bright smile.
“What?” I asked.
“I just talked to Urban Meyer,” Dad answered. “He said he remembers you and he’s going to come talk to you.” I couldn’t believe he remembered me in the first place.
Sure enough, I looked up not long after that to see Coach Meyer and Ms. Shelley making their way towards me. They both wrapped me in huge hugs before pulling up chairs and talking with us for at least fifteen minutes-if not longer. Ms. Shelley talked to me with the same warmth and kindness that her husband did, and I was floored when she said that my speech had made her cry. They made my night, and since then I’ve cheered for the Buckeyes the same way I cheer for Florida.
Me the night of the 2016 Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Gala
The answer to the above question applies to not only Coach Meyer, but to Ms. Shelley as well. They’re both amazing, incredibly kind, wonderful people, and I’m so grateful to have been able to meet them both. That night is something I think about whenever I need encouragement, and Coach Meyer is so much more than just a football coach. He always brightens my day, and I’m so blessed to be one of the thousands of lives he and Ms. Shelley have touched.