Meyer's Loyalty Shines Through

The media can talk about having a field day all they want with the recent conflict between Urban Meyer and a newspaper beat writer after practice one day last week. They can poke, prod, and contort Meyer's approach to the situation all they want. In the end, for the people that matter, Urban Meyer showed his loyalty and backbone and willingness to go the extra mile to defend them.

Certainly Jeremy Fowler is a lot more famous now than he was just a week ago. The Orlando Sentinel writer who was called on the carpet by Meyer and later some of his peers for taking one of Meyer's player's words out of context, has been on national radio and television talking about the incident.

And truth be told, all of that is probably fine with Meyer. In the end he made the point with everyone at the practice facility that day that witnessed it, and eventually almost every sports fan that follows college football, that he won't condone unprovoked and unsolicited attacks on his players.

We can debate all day about whether Fowler's remarks in the blog article, and context attributed to receiver Deonte Thompson about Tim Tebow were actually ethical or the right thing to do. The fact that the blog was changed several times since the original one was posted says all I need to know.

And the pompous and self righteous bloggers, newspaper editorialists, television and radio talk show hosts, and the rest that decided to martyr Fowler for his right to pontificate a quote any way he sees fit...well they just won't get this....and that's fine.

The bottom line is that a certain level of media has a great deal of disconnect when it comes to the athlete these days. They don't know these kids, they don't see these kids on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. To a lot, and I would venture most, these kids are just another name on a sheet of paper or a computer screen.

To them this was all about Meyer defending Tebow. I think I have heard it a thousand times on radio or read it already. "Meyer had to come to the defense of his favorite son."

They absolutely don't get it.

This had little to nothing to do with Tebow and everything to do with the exact point Meyer made when he confronted Fowler after practice that day.

"...I told you five years ago, don't mess with our players," Meyer said. "Don't do it. You did it."

Of course there was more, but this was the point Meyer was angry over. In his mind, Fowler used a quote from one of his current players to make a story that wasn't there. Evidently it wasn't the first time according to the quote from Meyer, and the previous incident must have been taken care of in private. The line was crossed again and Meyer reacted.

After promising Fowler restricted or no coverage of spring practice if it happened again, Meyer continued during this particular situation.

"...The kid has never been in trouble one time," Meyer said. "He's a great student, a great kid and you're going to do that (to him)?"

The reporter was one of about seven or eight with recorders in their hands and in front of Thompson when he said the quote in question. None of the others thought twice about anything Thompson meant that could be construed as a criticism of Tebow. Only one reporter ran with a quote and drew attention to a negative context for which it wasn't meant.

The national pundits took Fowler's blog interpretation of the quote and ran with it.

Fowler shouldn't have that disconnect, he probably never thought of the consequence for Thompson when writing it the way it was written. Neither did all the national folks that ran with it. The disconnection between them and the kid allows them to write as if the kid just doesn't matter.

I don't know, maybe there is hope...I'm not sure. Meyer supposedly apologized to Fowler for the outburst a few days later. Of course that didn't receive nearly the headlines of the first "conversation" between the two. The blabbering talking heads will probably keep on keeping on.

However, Meyer got his point across to everyone he wanted to make the point to and everyone that matters to him.

His own players took notice.

"He's got our back and we've got his back," center Mike Pouncey said when asked what he took from Meyer's stand.

"Coach Meyer has our back," starting quarterback John Brantley said. "That's what we want to see from our coaches. We trust our coaches and they trust us."

Co-defensive coordinator Chuck Heater who followed Meyer from Utah to Florida more than five years ago totally understands Urban Meyer's love for his team and his players. Heater believes Meyer's brush with the media will be a good thing for the program moving forward.

"Urban's a real passionate guy about his players, as we all are, so yeah, I think it's real positive from that standpoint," Heater said. "Everybody sees it and everybody gets it."

You better believe that the prospects that Florida is looking at for the signing class of 2011 see it as well. Urban Meyer dressing down a reporter for what he deemed as harmful to one of his players made impressions on some of the Gators most heralded prospects.

"He spoke on how he felt and I respect that," said tight end A.C. Leonard, a Gator oral commitment from Interlachen whose stock is really rising. "He cares about his players like they are his sons...and that is what I want to be around."

Scout.com's No. 1 quarterback in the country is a prime target for Florida for the class of 2011. Braxton Miller was also impressed with the way Meyer handled the situation. "It means a lot that he doesn't take crap from the outsiders that try to mess up the Gator family," Miller said.

Word leaked out the day after the confrontation that Meyer was contacted from a representative of the community of Belle Glade, who said they were behind Meyer 100% for protecting one of their own and "will always have (his) back". I'm sure he appreciated the sentiment, but it was probably nothing Meyer thought twice about doing at the time.

Meyer got what he wanted out of the whole deal. At the expense of Thompson being raked through the media for mis-attributed quotes, he was able to show the world at what lengths and under what scrutiny he would go to protect his players.

What player wouldn't want to play for someone like that? What parent wouldn't send their kid to play for someone like that?

In the end, Meyer's loyalty to his team, his adopted family, shined through. He has seen that returned loyalty from his team win two national titles...so far.


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