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FACER 2 FACER: On to the NFL, Urban Meyer left a lasting impact in Utah

DIRK: There’s a framed hand-written sentiment on the wall of our man cave at home. The note, penned on Tostitos Fiesta Bowl letterhead, was authored by famed football coach Urban Meyer. He sent it unsolicited to my son, Austin, shortly after leaving Utah for Florida in January of 2005. The envelope contained a postmark from Gainesville.

The contents were very special to my boy, who was 12-years-old at the time. It included a farewell, some advice and even an invitation for a visit. 

“It was great getting to know you the last two years,” read the first line.

Then came something the two worked on whenever Austin accompanied me to practice. “Firm handshake, square jaw, look him straight in the eyes and speak clear. You have it already figured out.”

Before signing it, Meyer added: “Come see us sometime!”

The reunion came a few years later when the former Utah coach returned to Rice-Eccles Stadium while on an assignment for ESPN. Austin had grown older and taller. So, too, at least in stature had Meyer. He won a couple of national championships at Florida before stepping aside for health reasons. Although Meyer later took the helm at Ohio State and won another title, folks around here remember him for coaching the original BCS Busters and lifting the Utah program to new heights with a 22-2 record over the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

There was more to it, however, at least at our house in Centerville. He made a lasting impact.

AUSTIN: That letter from Urban is definitely one of my most prized possessions. I really, really looked up to the guy big time. My favorite memories are when you were hauling me with you to Utah football practices nearly every day as soon as I got out of school. I’ll always remember that he took enough time to get to know me a little bit, shake my hand every day and share a fun moment every time we spoke. It was so cool to then see this adult, whom I considered my friend, become a towering figure in his sport and in America.

I was heartbroken when Urban left the Utes after just two years, but I understood that he was headed for bigger and better things at Florida. Sure enough, his ascension to the top was complete two years later when he won his first national championship with the Gators.

As the years have gone on, it’s become more and more clear, the dude is a winner. More importantly, he was always kind to me. He made me feel like a friend of his when I just a snot-nosed, 85-pound kid. I know I’ll be rooting for his success in the NFL. I might even be rooting for him when the Jags play the Seahawks next season. Maybe.

DIRK: Giving the NFL a shot in Jacksonville should come as no surprise.It’s a region of the country where Meyer earned the most hardware in his career as a head coach. As such, it’s hard to argue with the reasons the Jaguars have sought his services. Will his coaching style translate to the professional ranks? Inheriting a 1-15 team and coaching a player like Trevor Lawrence makes it easy to assume there’s little or no chance of bottoming out. There’s really no place to go but up.

Question is, how high will the Jaguars rise? Is it a Super Bowl or bust situation during his tenure with the team? Maybe, maybe not. Time will obviously tell the tale. Given Meyer’s track record, though, it’s probably fair to assume they’ll be in the hunt at some point. The man is a driven winner, having done so at all previous stops.

And as evidenced by the letter on our wall, he has taken some time to enjoy the journey — the stops — along the way.

 AUSTIN: I think Jacksonville is the ideal place for Urban to give the pros a shot. If critics are to be believed, Jacksonville will be landing the greatest quarterback prospect of the last 30 years when the Jags select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. It’s not unlike when the Gators signed Tim Tebow the very same year that Urban came aboard in Gainesville.

If Lawrence lives up to the hype, and Urban can construct an offensive playbook around his skills, along with hiring stellar defensive assistant coaches — two things that Meyer has done at every stop in his career — the Jags could be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. Which could very well mean more hardware in Urban’s trophy case. His letter to me already holds a center place of honor in my trophy case.

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