The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 2, 2013

Meyer, Hood: Men on a mission

Two of Ashtabula County’s most well-known men deliver strong messages at camp

Staff Writer

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer isn’t shy when he talks about the pride he feels about growing up in Ashtabula.

“Any time someone sticks a microphone in my face, I tell them how great Ashtabula is,” Meyer said Monday at Spire. “My objective is to keep upping this area and upping this county. I know it’s fallen on some tough times, but everything I have in my world is because (of my time in Ashtabula).”

Meyer along with fellow Ashtabula native and Eastern Kentucky football coach Dean Hood were in town Monday for the Urban Meyer/Dean Hood Football Camp, organized by ESPN 970 WFUN and Dr. William A. Seeds of Seed Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

Both Hood and Meyer’s messages to campers, and local coaches, went beyond just the basic X’s and O’s of football, but focused more on the concepts of building a team, how to conduct oneself on and off the field and being a teammate.

Hood spoke to campers, of which there were 357 up from the roughly 250 that were at the first installment of the camp last year, about being a gentleman.

“The first part of that word is gentle, you need to be gentle and kind,” he said to the youngsters who were hanging on his every word. “The second part is being a man. A man takes responsibility for things. He takes the responsibility of going to class. Of taking care of his family.

“You combine those attributes and you get a gentleman.”

Meyer, who described Hood as “one of the finest coaches in the country at any level,” complimented the campers on their commitment to coming out to camp to help better themselves.

“You made a choice today, there’s so many choices in life, you could’ve slept in and gotten up and played video games today,” he said. “But you made a choice to get up early and come here today and make yourself better. To make your team better.”

He later spoke about the difference between a 2011 Ohio State team that went 6-7 and the 2012 team that went 12-0 in its first year under his guidance.

“A team had seven losses, everyone wants to blame the players, ‘oh you had bad players.’ Or they want to blame the coaches, ‘you had bad coaches.’ That’s absolutely not true,” he said. “People come up to me and say, ‘You went to the spread offense, that really made the difference.’ Isn’t that hilarious? People actually think going to the spread made the difference.

“The difference was nothing physical. We saw people become great teammates and leaders and that’s what made the difference.”

When speaking to the approximately 35 area coaches who helped run the camp, Meyer reflected on it what it meant to him to return to Ashtabula.

“I stayed last night at the lodge, then we went to the winery on the lake,” he said. “I went for a long walk and I’m just looking at the water and having so many great memories of growing up in Ashtabula. After circling this country for the last 27-28 years, it’s so great to be back. With that said, we all take great pride in this place. Dean and I are always saying, ‘what else can we do (to help Ashtabula)?’”

Meyer also said he would love to see a team from Ashtabula County make a run through the state playoffs.

He particularly mentioned the energy he’s heard that first-year Lakeside coach Frank Hall seems to have injected into the Dragon program.

“It would be awesome. I mean I can only speak for myself and Dean cuz we talk about it all the time, what a cool deal it would be to walk down to Ohio Stadium on a state championship day or just see them start going and see this whole town,” he said. “We made the playoffs my senior year (the 1981 season). They went to the finals the next year, I believe and I went down there and you see the whole town. That’s one thing that athletics does, it energizes communities, it energizes schools. I’m so anxious for that. They say he’s (Hall) got 50 guys working out. I would love to go talk to those guys, I’m don’t think I’m allowed to, but I’d love to.

“I mean Ashtabula should have a good team. Ashtabula used to be, I sound like an old man, ‘used to be.’ But there should be good football here. There’s great history of great football in the northeastern part of the state.”

Hood echoed similar sentiments, saying he keeps tabs on what area football teams are doing throughout the year.

“My mom and dad are still here, I talk to Dad on the phone to see who’s doing good this year,” he said. “He still keeps up with it in the Star Beacon and all that on who’s doing well. It would be phenomenal like Urban said to get an area team into the playoffs and make a run. Ohio high school football is great, it’s not good, it’s great.

“You’re talking top five when you look at the states football. There would be a lot of pride if someone from the Ashtabula area made some noise in the playoffs.”

Dr. Seeds, who helped sponsor the event, said it was important to him to have the event help the young, local athletes.

“People gave me opportunities, it’s what’s made me what I am,” he said. “Actually, it’s that simple. I had people that gave me opportunities and that’s why I am what I am today and if I can do things to give kids the messages that I got then I’ve done something spectacular. It’s all for the kids.”

ESPN 970 WFUN Program Director Dave Miller said he considered the event to be a success.

“Yeah, I think so, it’s always great when you have Urban and Dean come back and do this kind of thing, it really is a great day,” he said. “The exact count was 357. Urban and Dean said last year they wanted to make it bigger and open it up. Obviously. the more kids, the better. It’s nice to be to expand it and keep it moving.”