Paul Kopko and Tom Pavlansky, the former and current football coaches at Lakeview High School, remember Urban Meyer before he became Urban Meyer, if that makes any sense.
Meyer has always been Meyer, an Ashtabula native whose athletic exploits at St. John High School always seemed to be splashed across the sports pages of The Star-Beacon in the late 1970s and early '80s.
But it was another 20 years or so before Urban Meyer became Urban Meyer, the hottest commodity among college football coaches.
Kopko coached Meyer at St. John before taking the Lakeview job in 1984. Kopko retired after the 1998 season and was replaced by Pavlansky, who had worked with Meyer twice before.
Meyer was a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce at Ohio State in 1987 and Pavlansky was a student manager with the Buckeyes. In 1991, Pavlansky joined Bruce as a graduate assistant at Colorado State, where Meyer was the Rams' receivers coach.
Small world and small coaching world.
Kopko and Pavlansky both are excited Meyer has returned to coaching with Ohio State.
"I think it was a very good move on the part of the university to bring in a guy like Urban to head up the program," Kopko said. "I think Jim Tressel did a lot of good things at Ohio State and I think Urban is the right guy as they continue along that path."
Kopko, who now lives in Newton Falls, said Meyer probably was the coach Ohio State wanted all along as soon as Tressel was forced out on Memorial Day.
"Once coach Tressel was removed, I think there was an indication Urban was one of the frontrunners for the job, because of his past credentials and his Ohio background. I think it's a good fit."
Pavlansky likes Meyer's hiring as an Ohio State graduate, a follower of the Buckeyes' football program and a coaching acquaintance of the Ashtabula native.
"His resume speaks for itself," said Pavlansky, who met with Meyer in Arizona as his Florida Gators prepared to meet Ohio State in the BCS title game in January 2007. "Arguably, there's not a better coach out there. Coaches win games because of the players they have, and there is not a shortage of talented players in the state of Ohio and also Florida. Urban brings that to the table. He can get those players."
And like Tressel, he is an Ohioan through and through.
"He's an Ohio guy, he's a Buckeye and he gets it," Pavlansky said. "I think (Ohio State athletic director) Gene Smith said that during the news conference, and he's right. Plus, he's close with coach Bruce, and I know how much more of a Buckeye anybody could be. I don't see any negatives here. I don't see how anybody could argue with it."
Like most Ohio high school football coaches, Kopko and Pavlansky shared an admiration for Tressel and the staff he put together during a decade at Ohio State. Both were sorry the Buckeyes' tattoo scandal claim Tressel's job.
"I felt sick to my stomach," Pavlansky said. "I think he's done an awful lot of good for the university as a whole and for the players, and I thought that should count for something."
It appears interim coach Luke Fickell will stay and be part of Meyer's staff, but the other assistant coaches' futures are unclear.
"I have mixed emotions, because I really have a lot of respect for current staff and I feel for them and the situation they've been in," Pavlansky said. "I think they did a tremendous job all season."
Kopko said Meyer will likely continue many of the traditions Tressel brought back to Ohio State.
"We sort of got away from some of that during the (John) Cooper years," Kopko said. "I'm sure Urban will continue those things."
But there will be some obvious changes when Meyer takes over.
"I do think that with Urban's background with Xs and Os, they will have a much more explosive offense," Kopko said. "Coach Tressel had his certain formula for winning football games and it worked very well, but I think Urban will open things up more.
"If they can do that and continue to play the kind of defense they've played, I don't think it'll take long for Ohio State to return to national prominence. Some of it will depend on the sanctions, so we'll have to see what the NCAA is going to do there."
Kopko said another difference between Meyer and Tressel might be the former's direct way of dealing with things versus the latter's long-storied diplomacy.
"Coach Tressel was always very dipomatic," he said. "Urban might be more willing to share information."
Meyer is just 47, but health concerns were behind his 2010 resignation at Florida.
"I think he used the year off to go around and survey other coaches to see how they handled stressful situations," Kopko said. "I think that will help him now that he's in another pressure-cooker job. Hopefully, he will manage that."
Pavlansky, who visited Meyer when he was an assistant at Notre Dame in the late 1990s, later as the head coach at Bowling Green in the early 2000s, said the Buckeyes' new leader is exactly as advertised.
"What you see is what you get," he said. "He wants people to be relentess, he cares a great deal about the kids and he's a hard worker. But most of all, he's a Buckeye. He's committed to achieving the goals of the team."