Meyer says Mewhort will be team captain

Ohio State coach speaks at Toledo banquet

3/19/2013
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shakes hands with high school football players honored at the National Football Foundation banquet at the Stranahan Theater.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shakes hands with high school football players honored at the National Football Foundation banquet at the Stranahan Theater.

Urban Meyer needed to know he was in good company.

“O-H!” the Ohio State football coach belted as he stepped to the lectern at the packed Stranahan Great Hall on Monday night.

“I was promised, or I was not going to come up here, that it would be 100 percent Buckeyes in this room,” he said, smiling. “So I have some cameras in here. I’ve got it figured out those who didn’t say [I-O]. I know we’re somewhat in enemy territory just a little bit north.”

As it turned out, the response was resounding, and the Toledo chapter of the National Football Foundation’s annual scholar-athlete banquet could carry on.

It was a night filled with awards, auctions, even breaking news. Meyer told the crowd he was honored to be in northwest Ohio, then turned to two of the area’s own to name a new captain and a new quarterback.

Sort of.

Meyer announced that senior left tackle Jack Mewhort, a St. John’s Jesuit graduate whom he has singled out as the Buckeyes’ top returning leader, will be a captain this season.

“It’s not a dictatorship at Ohio State, and we let our players choose captains,” Meyer said. “However, all those votes have to pass by my desk. So I’m going to tell you who one will [be].”

Then there was this:

“By the way, Aaron Craft is playing football next year,” Meyer cracked of the streaking OSU basketball team’s star junior point guard, a former quarterback at Liberty-Benton. “Thad [Matta] doesn’t know yet. I think Braxton {Miller] is going to sit, and I’m going to put Aaron right behind center. Is he the best?”

Meyer struck a more serious note in recalling the Buckeyes’ perfect 2012 season — a year, he said, that began to change course with defensive end John Simon’s call to arms after playing through a serious labrum injury in a narrow Week 3 win against California. The coach said the teary locker-room speech left him with a “knot in my stomach, almost violently ill.”

OSU coach Urban Meyer signs a football for Mike Birmingham on Monday during his visit to the Stranahan Theater.
OSU coach Urban Meyer signs a football for Mike Birmingham on Monday during his visit to the Stranahan Theater.

“I went home that night,” he said, “and just stared at the ceiling in my room and went, ‘What's wrong with you? What’s wrong with our coaching staff?’ ... What I got so angry about is here I’m 48 years old, I’ve got a group of professional coaches, and I couldn’t have stood up there and done the same thing because I wasn't as committed as he was.”

So Meyer said his staff and players began to double down on their commitment. In the Buckeyes’ one-point win at Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, he assured the audience his players’ shirt-tearing pantomimes were not a tribute to Superman.

“You’ve got to rip your chest open, take out your heart, and you need to hand it to your coach,” Meyer said. He said the players did, and the result was a “magical season” — one he hopes to repeat in his second year.

In addition to the scholar athletes, the NFF also honored St. Francis de Sales’ George Schaefer with the Tom Amstutz Honored Assistant Award and presented the Distinguished Service Award to Mike Wilcox, chairman and chief executive officer of Wilcox Financial and Wilcox Sports Management in Toledo.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.