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And why should it? When Meyer won his first national title, after the 2006 season, it was as clear a moment of arrival as football had seen in years. Meyer had grown up worshipping Ohio State, wearing number 45 in honor of Archie Griffin; he had teared up the first time he touched a Buckeyes jersey. Now, on a perfect January night in Phoenix, this son of Ohio had just crushed Woody's old school 41--14. Meyer was 42 years old, in just his sixth year as a head coach. He shook hands with Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel at midfield, walked to the sideline and found his father was waiting.
"Well," Bud said. "It's about time you did that."
Urban III was four years old that September day, old enough to know he was in big trouble. He had broken a rule, crossed the street in front of home without permission, and his mom had seen, so he'd bolted—back across Lake Road West, right under the wheels of a speeding car. He sprawled on the pavement, limp, his left leg broken at the hip and his head, Gigi says, "bleeding like crazy."
His memories of the accident and its aftermath blur and shift: Bud comforting him, his mom terrified. Father and sisters don't recall the injuries as life-threatening, but Gisela's grave accounts allowed Urban to cultivate the self-image of a survivor, unstoppable even as a child. "They said I'd never walk [again]," he says. "I almost died on the table."
The family spent Halloween trick-or-treating in the hospital. Urban's lower body was immobilized in a cast, and after he went home in November, he spent another two months scooting around on his butt, imprisoned legs extended, before he took his first step. He emerged from the cast with a long scar, a stronger upper body and a harrowingly reinforced respect for the house rules.
"If I ever lied to my dad? Just tell him and I'd run my laps," Meyer says. "If I ever [hurt] my sister or did something to a female? God forbid. If you ever quit something? The sun's not coming up the next day."
When Urban was in second grade, Erika came home crying because two of his classmates had mocked her clothes. Bud told Urban, "Go to school and beat the living crap out of them." Urban rode the morning bus full of dread, "but he did it," Erika says. That night Bud sat his seven-year-old boy at the head of the dinner table and announced, "You became a man today."
That may not have been an exaggeration. "Yeah, it kind of changed him," Erika says, "from the little guy he was then to the man he was in junior high school, this cocky, arrogant guy. He could do no wrong. He was God. He became the most popular kid in class. All the guys were intimidated by him, and all the girls wanted to date him."
His dad, though, wanted results. He'd sit in the stands, taping his thoughts on Urban's at bats and carries into a portable recorder. Sports was Urban's job, and Bud controlled the purse strings: a dollar for home runs, 50 cents for an RBI. Early on he demanded 25 cents back for every strikeout, but by Urban's senior year at St. John High such a refund seemed piddling. So after Urban took one curveball for a called strike three, Bud made him run home. "About eight miles," Urban says.
He was a two-sport king—a fullback and defensive back in the fall, a strong-armed shortstop in the spring—but football spoke to him like nothing else. It wasn't just the scoring and the winning: He was mesmerized by the sight, at a University of Cincinnati game, of a Wichita State defensive coordinator, his hat twisted backward, snarling commands. Ohio high schools still had plenty of Woody wannabes in the early 1980s, and the sight of a player getting kicked in the ass or the balls for going offside seemed, well, normal to Urban. A coach wrenching a face mask? The way it should be. Urban worked out constantly, pushed his teammates to join him. He loved the getting ready as much as the game.