Before J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller at Ohio State, before Tim Tebow and Chris Leak at Florida, before even Alex Smith at Utah, there was Josh Harris.
Before J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller at Ohio State, before Tim Tebow and Chris Leak at Florida, before even Alex Smith at Utah, there was Josh Harris. The Westerville North grad was Urban Meyer's first quarterback, in 2000 as Meyer took the reins at Bowling Green. As Ohio State kicks off its 2016 season on Sept. 3 against his alma mater, Harris-who parlayed his BGSU success into a brief NFL stint before opening his own insurance agency in his hometown-talked to us about those early days, being on the front end of an offensive revolution and his respect for the coach who turned his career and life around.
When coach Meyer got there, the biggest thing to change was our attitude. The energy level around the facility was first to change, and the level of effort that you had to put in changed. You had to put in complete effort all the time or you would stand out so bad it would be uncomfortable, and you would probably quit-and we had lots of people quit.
That first winter and spring after he came in was the most competitive experience I have ever had. Obviously, there's nothing more competitive than the NFL, but the NFL is different because there's no one yelling at you-they're just watching and taking notes and you either make it or you don't; they just cut you in the end. That first winter and first spring while [Meyer] was trying to determine what he had, it was sooo competitive. Then we won that first game against Missouri, his first game as a head coach, and that was a lot of fun. We got a pretty good season going, but it didn't feel like we were doing anything special. When we lost to Miami in the fourth-to-last game of the year, coach Meyer made me the full-time starter instead of splitting time, and that was when everything changed. I can't speak for everyone, but it felt to me like we had a more clear identity, and we just started pounding the ball against people. I ran the ball 28 times in my first game as a starter, then in the 9/11 makeup game against Northwestern, I threw for more than 400 yards. We became unpredictable, and we were rolling.
I think the biggest thing he did for me personally was to give me a chance. He believed in me, then he expected more from me than I could have even expected from myself.
He asked a lot out of the quarterback position, especially when I became full-time starter. We started doing something I don't think anyone had ever done before: When we would drive down to the 10 or closer, we took our running back out of the game and brought in another tight end-that was the very beginning of the whole Wildcat formation: direct snap, run the ball, period. I had 20 rushing touchdowns that year because he saw something different that worked. That's what he's good at: When he finds something or someone that works, he leans on that person or those persons and allows them to carry the load.
You ask me if it's special to have been the first one to make that system go. I don't know-me being any part of his system is special to me. I imagine the other guys who were also privileged to have been part of the system would say the same thing. Playing for coach Meyer and the time we had is probably my highest achievement, including going to the NFL.
Of course I want to see BG do well, but it's hard for me to root against coach Meyer, ever. I will probably just watch and enjoy it and not root for either team. I will just watch and hope for a good game, and let the cards fall where they may.