Geneva, Ohio -- Roughly a half hour after lecturing campers on the importance of drawing attention to themselves in a positive way, Urban Meyer was presented with the opportunity to demonstrate what he meant.
Speaking at a press conference following his and childhood friend/Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood's third annual youth football camp on the edge of Ashtabula, Ohio, the Ohio State head coach was asked about the sign that welcomes visitors to his hometown. Sitting at the corner of a motel and across from a Pilot Flying J gas station, the blue metallic rectangle lets all entrants into Ashtabula County know that they're stepping foot in the childhood home of a two-time BCS national champion head coach.
Demonstrating the humility that he preached moments earlier, Meyer admitted to being humbled by the recognition.
"I'm not really into that stuff but I'm very appreciative," Meyer said. "Anytime that I'm associated with this great city, this great town and the county and my good friends are still here that I talk to frequently, it's really important I try to get back here every year and do the best we can."
At his and Hood's annual camp, Meyer has done just that.
Free for all campers to attend, kids from pre-school to middle school in northwest Ohio are afforded with the opportunity to receive instruction from two Division-I head coaches and a plethora of area high school coaches. As Meyer explained, his and Hood's way of giving back isn't aimed to just benefit the campers, but the counselors as well.
Dean and I have a passion for Ashtabula. The both of us have been very blessed to have traveled around to hundreds of different high schools and communities and you just always go back and see how fortunate we are to be from Ashtabula," Meyer said. "So we started thinking, what's the best way to give back? And we had great mentors and the two groups of people that we can maybe have an impact on are young kids because we can't meet with high school players and then high school coaches."
The pride that Meyer takes in Ashtabula is apparent when he talks about the city that saw him star in both football and basketball at Saint John High School. It's also something that he's carried with himself throughout his coaching career, whether he was right down the road at Bowling Green or all the way down in the Sunshine State.
"I'm just awful proud of this town," Meyer said. "It started in '06 when we were playing Ohio State and I was at Florida for the national title. Someone showed up -- a reporter -- and they said something about, not necessarily making fun of (Ashtabula), but I remember looking at the guy and I got real defensive about where I grew up just because I've been so lucky to go see all these other places and I wouldn't trade anything."
Asked what he learned growing up in Ashtabula, Meyer pointed to the toughness that was preached by his football coach, Paul Kopko, and the selfless mindset that he tried to relay in his message to the camp's older campers. Those are also the homegrown values that Meyer is trying to instill in the Buckeyes, as he gears up for his third season as Ohio State's headman.
"If you go to Eastern Kentucky or Ohio State, you'll see bits and pieces of everything we learned from Ashtabula, Ohio," Meyer said of himself and Hood. "Why not show up early? Why not work a little harder? Why not get great grades? Why not do it old school? Get the attention of the teachers the right way -- not being a jerk in the classroom or showing up five minutes late to practice... not one NFL scout or NFL head coach has said, ‘Hey, do you got a guy that's usually late? Or is kind of disrespectful? Do you have one of those kind of guys? I really want him on my pro team.' That's never happened. Same thing with when we go out recruiting. I think that message has to get out to these guys so I try to deliver that as often as I can."