Meyer's change of heart, inspired by a lively Sunday morning practice and outpouring of support was the story of the day in all of sports. And it's a story that's a long way from being completely told. We don't know exactly how long his "leave of absence" will be. It could be a month. It could half a year or more. Meyer says in his gut he believes he will be back to coach his team for 2010, but no one knows that to be the case.
While Meyer's situation is probably most confounding for the guys who will be part of the 2010 football team, it was more emotional for the players with the longest relationships with him. Seniors Tim Tebow and Ryan Stamper spoke at the Gators arrival news conference in New Orleans to talk about the remarkable 24 hour period they had just gone through.
On what this time has been like:
Tebow ---- "The last 24 hours has definitely been a whirlwind in dealing with everything and knowing that Coach Meyer was going through just hard times with his health. Talking to him before practice (Saturday) it was really tough because I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew just by talking to him that everything wasn't right. After practice we had a team meeting and he told us and a lot of the guys on the team were crying and upset. We look at our team like it's a family and we just wanted what was best for our Dad."
Stamper ---- "Over my five years here Coach Meyer and me have become very close and he's become a great friend to me. His health is first. As close as we are you don't look at the other things like what coach is coming in. You just pretty much worry about his health right now and that's what was first on my mind when he told us about his decision."
On what he remembers most about the whole ordeal:
Stamper ---- "We were just on the football field, seven on seven and I could see it on Coach Meyer's face that something was wrong. I didn't know what exactly was going on, but I could see it. So I went, "what's up coach, you all right?" and he said, "Yeah I'm all right" and he told me he loved me and I told him I love him back. When he did that it just felt really good for Coach to tell me that in front of all the players it felt really great. (Sunday) the way we came out with intensity in practice even in a down moment the guys came out there knowing we had a job to do and we had to finish the job. The way practice was today and the way the coaches got after it and the way Coach Meyer got after it and Tebow and everyone just shows the kind of program the University of Florida is after a situation like this."
Tebow ---- "(Saturday) in practice I just finished a quarterback drill and I was finishing and starting to turn and (start) messing with Coach Meyer like I usually do and he just said the same thing he said to Ryan. I knew that something wasn't exactly right there and not because he said that. He wanted to make sure with this decision that everyone else was taken care of. Even when he's trying to do something for his family and for himself he still wanted to make sure the players were taken care of and everything's good with the coaches. That just shows how much he cares about this University, his players and his coaching staff. Then this morning we're on the practice field and he sees how this team plays and he talks to this team he lights up. You can see there was a little bit more joy this morning. Then when he told us he was coming back you could see a little bit more joy came to his eyes and came to his face and it got brighter. That's what I'll remember most."
Oddly, Meyer's decision to take a leave of absence rather than resign might work against the Gators a bit come Friday night. Florida certainly would have had a "win one for the Gipper" type mentality against Cincinnati if it was going to be Meyer's last game at UF if not ever. Now the game will send two rather confused, convoluted programs against each other. Florida facing an uncertain future with its coach headed to an unspecified time away from the program. Cincinnati whose coach has already left, whose new coach is on campus, but not coaching them and whose interim coach has already accepted a job elsewhere.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Meyer Turnaround Emotional for Coach, Players
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