Meyer's Gators Were the Best All-Around

There is no denying where Urban Meyer fits into the all-time list of great Gators. Meyer came to Florida as not a sure thing from a smaller school with a funky offense and made a sure thing out of his Gators. He shockingly, has decided to hang up his coaching whistle in order to live a healthier life and be with his family. His legacy will go down at the very top of the Gator coaching tree.

Urban Meyer will go down as a pioneer in the SEC and in college football for his spread option attack that defied the critics who said it wouldn't work in the rough and tumble and fast SEC. As a Gator he will be at the top of most Gators' totem poles of the very best that ever put on the Orange and Blue.

In five short years, Urban Meyer had his team playing for three SEC Championships and two national titles. He won two of the three SEC titles and both national titles in that same span.

More than anything Meyer brought back a swagger to the Gator Nation that had been missing for a few years and galvanized the student fan base harping on the student body to get organized and fanatic about the Gators.

In the meantime he entered the SEC and made the conference and especially his rivals his own personal whipping boys. The Urban Meyer led Gators had a combined 15-1 record against Gator rivals Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State. He had a staggering 23-2 in the Eastern Division of the SEC.

Meyer came to Florida via Utah with a spread option offense that was laughed at and ridiculed by his peers and rival fans. He found inventive ways to use players on campus to win a national title in 2006, his second on campus.

In 2007, a revamped defense meant Meyer had to unleash the spread option offense and Tim Tebow on the SEC just to keep up. He did so to record numbers and Tebow was the first quarterback in history to win the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore.

In 2008, Meyer saw a resurgent defense that he recruited to Florida take control and help spur on a national title for the second time in three years. Meyer's first four years on campus were maybe the most successful of any coach at any program in college football history.

His final campaign was definitely his most tumultuous and certainly a reason for his health issues. Constantly facing issues that could have sidetracked his team, Meyer guided them to an undefeated regular season falling short in the SEC Championship Game for the first time in three tries.

To me, the signature game in Meyer's career was the 2006 SEC Championship game against Arkansas. It featured every twist and turn and every bit of coaching prowess that Urban Meyer could conjure up. The Gators won with offense, defense and special teams, the third part a trademark of great Meyer teams.

In the game, the Gators came from behind using a fake punt inside their own 40-yard line and landed on a muffed punt in the end zone for a touchdown. They also used backup quarterback Tim Tebow at just the right times to go along with starter Chris Leak.

The Gators showed toughness and grit in that game like they have in almost every outing under Meyer's watch. Meyer's teams were known for their toughness, something the Gators have not been known for in decades before.

On Saturday, one day after he spent Christmas with his family, Urban Meyer released a statement, and that statement tells it all.

"I have given my heart and soul to coaching college football and mentoring young men for the last 24-plus years and I have dedicated most of my waking moments the last five years to the Gator football program," said Meyer. "I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family."

"After consulting with my family, Dr. Machen, Jeremy Foley and my doctors, I believe it is in my best interest to step aside and focus on my health and family.

"I'm proud to be a part of the Gainesville community and the Gator Nation and I plan to remain in Gainesville and involved with the University of Florida.

"I'm very appreciative for the opportunity I've had to be a part of a tremendous institution - from Dr. Machen to Jeremy Foley and the entire administrative staff at UF. I'm also very thankful for the chance to work with some of the best assistants in college football and coach some of the best college football players and watch them grow both on and off the field as people. I will cherish the relationships with them the most."

Meyer has done so much on and off the field for Florida it is unlikely those accomplishments can be matched. The bond he has with his players and the ability he has to push them through school and earn their degrees shows that he wasn't only about winning football games and championships but also about the people he coached.

Urban Meyer will coach his last college football game in New Orleans as the Gators take on Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl on January 1. Just like the last five years and his entire 24 years of coaching, he will likely give it everything he has. Of that, no Gator fan will ever question.

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