Bruce Says Meyer-UF Are The Perfect Match

When Urban Meyer was making the decision to leave Utah to accept the offer to be the head coach of the Florida Gators, one of the first people he called was his longtime mentor, Earle Bruce, the former coach at Tampa, Iowa State, Ohio State and Colorado State. It was Bruce who gave Meyer his first coaching break, hiring him as a graduate assistant at Ohio State right after his graduation from the University of Cincinnati.

Bruce talked about the opportunity that Florida presented, and it was the old coach's go for it that perhaps sealed the deal that Meyer would become the head coach of the Gators.

When they were talking over the Florida opportunity, Bruce felt that Meyer was the perfect match for the Gators. After watching Florida practice Wednesday afternoon, he's seen nothing that would change his mind.

"There's no question that he's the right fit for Florida," said Bruce after Wednesday's practice. "He's a great football coach with a great football mind. He loves the game of football, is a great coach, great teacher of the game and an excellent recruiter. Plus, he's a very hard worker. You put all that together and what does it mean?

"Well, generally, that means great success and look at what he had first at Bowling Green and then at Utah. Now he's coming to a place where success is the name of the game, where he's got everything he needs in terms of players and facilities to be successful. You can have it all here at Florida. The fans want it. They love football. It's a great opportunity for someone to come in here who loves coaching football to put it together and really win big, and best of all for Florida he's a guy who will do it the right way by following all the rules. That's what I think he brings here."

When Bruce hired Meyer as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, he saw a young coach with a passion for football. Meyer was like a sponge, absorbing everything, always asking questions, always learning the game and always looking for ways to improve. Being around Bruce was like pouring gasoline on a raging fire burning within. As much as Meyer loved to learn, Bruce loved to teach so the young assistant and the head coach were a match made in heaven. Bruce was always noted as a great teacher of fundamentals. His teams were tough, hard nosed and not the kind that would beat themselves with silly mistakes. Bruce liked to surround himself with young assistants who shared his passion for the game and particularly loved to teach the game. Watching Meyer, Bruce says he could tell instantly that his protégé had the qualities that would one day make him an outstanding head coach.

"There's no question he [Meyer] had the passion and the love for the game," said Bruce. "When I hear someone talk about football I can tell if he knows the game, likes the game and has a real appreciation for it and that's what I could tell about Urban from the first time we talked. There was never a question in my mind that one day he was going to be an outstanding head coach. It's been a lot of fun for me to watch him grow as a person and as a coach to the fine young man you see out there. I'm so proud of him."

Meyer apprenticed under other coaches, learning and preparing at every stop along the way to eventually take a head coaching position. Working for Sonny Lubick, Lou Holtz and Bob Davie, Meyer earned a reputation as a relentless recruiter and an outstanding on the field coach.

Meyer is in the right place at the right time...

When he got a call from an old friend asking him to recommend a hot young assistant to take over the reigns at Bowling Green, a Mid-American Conference school mired in mediocrity, Bruce instantly suggested the Falcons should call Meyer who was coaching wide receivers at Notre Dame under Davie. Bruce says there was no question that the time was right for Meyer to make the leap from assistant coach to head coach. Meyer had paid his dues and he was ready.

"I told them they needed a young, dynamic coach and I said you should go get this one [Meyer]," said Bruce. "I told them if you get him, you'll have real success because he's so well prepared to be successful. When I told them about Urban, they went over to Notre Dame and saw he was just what I was talking about."

That's pretty much the same pitch that Bruce gave to the athletic director at Utah and also to Jeremy Foley, Florida's athletic director, when they called, asking about Meyer. Bruce says there are good reasons why Meyer is a perfect fit for a football program that wants to be at the top.

"First off, he's a good communicator who gets a good rapport with players and he's always honest," said Bruce. "He just tells them how it is, how it can be and just as important, what it won't be. I think a lot of coaches are afraid to tell players what it won't be.

"I also think that he's a good fit here because he learns the whole personality of each football player and finds the thing that needs to be developed in each young man. He'll really work each kid hard to bring out the toughness in them. He'll get the players to stay with it, to work hard every day and give it all in practice so they can perform like champions on Saturday."

Bruce says Meyer will excel as a recruiter because he is able to let kids see the side of him that truly is concerned about their future.

"Some coaches only talk about education and bringing out the best in kids but Urban really believes it," said Bruce. "With him it really is about getting the best out of kids. He really does want to get them ready for life. I think kids understand that he really is sincere about getting them ready to succeed in life and not just football."

There is one other element to Meyer the recruiter that attracts kids, says Bruce, and it's the way his teams play the game.

"He goes to get great football players and he gets them," said Bruce. "You take a look at his offense and you can see the things why a great quarterback, or a great running back, or a great receiver or lineman would want to come here. The way he does things on offense there's a great opportunity to win and then he puts the kicking game together and a defense that goes after the ball on every play and you've got the total package of football. What kid wouldn't want to be a part of it?

"Florida's got a good one here. I think you're going to enjoy watching this team play football."

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