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How a bevy of uncomfortable conversations became jubilation and hugs between Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer
By James Vogel

NEW ORLEANS — A tumultuous three seasons — three long, whipping and somewhat maddening seasons — were just a few seconds away from drawing to a close with a championship in hand and the only thing on Luke Fickell’s mind was the number zero.

Ohio State was a mere 40 seconds away from pitching a shutout against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and Fickell was still directing his troops in order to finalize his team’s biggest statement of the season. It was then when the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach felt a pair of arms wrap around him in euphoria.

Those arms, of course, belonged to Fickell’s boss Urban Meyer, a man who was looking to share a moment of jubilation with the one of the most criticized men on his staff.

“He knew what I was trying to do,” Fickell said Monday. “I was like, ‘Let’s finish this thing.’”

But Meyer didn’t want to wait that long to share his appreciation to the man who stuck through losing his old boss in Jim Tressel to becoming the school’s head coach and now, at last, a champion coach.

 

“We don’t allow ourselves to relax a whole bunch, so that was kind of a unique situation,” Fickell said. “Coach kind of let his guard there and relaxed a bit there … (There are) different challenges (with working for Meyer), but that was the first for that unique challenge.”

The loyalty Fickell brings to the Ohio State program goes beyond what he’s done as a coach, as he was a force on the defensive line in the 90s in Columbus. He was left with a mess when Tressel was ousted, left to pick up the pieces and put out a winner before Meyer got to the school in 2012.

“I was so happy for Luke,” Meyer said Dec. 7, a few hours after learning his team would be in the first ever College Football Playoff. “He’s a Buckeye, he’s a great family man, he’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for.”

Meyer’s respect for the man who has six children yet works the demanding job of a college football coach was evident the first time he took the microphone as Ohio State’s head coach Jan. 15, 2012, at halftime of the basketball team’s 80-63 victory against Indiana.

“Very fortunate to have one of the finest defensive coaches in the country stay on our coaching staff, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell,” Meyer said before a deafening roar from the crowd at the Schottenstein Center.

“He’s a guy that we have heard conversations about,” Meyer said. “He was in a very interesting situation here before I got here and he had no reason to be as loyal as he has been to me.”

Those conversations mostly came from Buckeye supporters and writers who called for Fickell’s job during the 2013 season, when Ohio State’s pass defense was statistically one of the worst in the country.

It led to questions from the media about the security of his job at Ohio State and Fickell always answered as jovially as he could, saying all he wanted was what’s best for his school.

When things don't go as well as you want them to, obviously those confrontations — not confrontations — but conversations and the only way you can do that is address it head on,” Fickell said. “We've had those moments, we've had those moments, those times where he has a vision and the most important thing is we all got clear of what that vision is. Those things we continue to battle, and those things come true.”

Player profiles relevant to story:
37 - Perry, Joshua | Coach - Fickell, Luke | Coach - Meyer, Urban
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