Several college football coaches have appeared in recent weeks at Liberty County High School in hopes of courting player Raekwon McMillan. Regardless of which school the linebacker commits to, the visits will leave an impact on football fans fortunate enough to meet leaders like Urban Meyer and Mark Richt.
Meyer, who will enter his second season with Ohio State University this fall and who took the University of Florida Gators to national-championship game wins in 2006 and 2008, impressed several on Wednesday when he posed for photographs.
Panther baseball second baseman and senior Bailey Kitchings said he saw the coach standing in the commons area with Principal Paula Scott and one of the football coaches.
Amazed, the senior told history teacher Lauren Hale that he’d just seen Meyer in the hallways. Hale, reportedly also a fan, took Kitchings to meet the coach. He and classmate Daniel Shutts posed together for a picture.
“I’m a huge college football fan; I’m not really an Ohio State fan, but getting to meet Urban Meyer was a huge experience for me,” Kitchings said. “We didn’t really talk to him because we had to go back to class, but he was a nice guy and was willing to talk to us.”
How did Kitchings feel after the chance encounter?
“I was bragging about it to everybody,” he said. “Some people were jealous —people who actually watch college football — most of the people didn’t even know who Urban Meyer was.”
But the opportunity offered more than bragging rights, he added.
“It makes people feel like we have actually good athletes at our school,” he said. “I think people see that we have football coaches coming to look at a few players, and it makes people say, ‘I play sports, I should try to get good enough to have a college coach come see me.’”
Meyer’s morale-boosting wasn’t restricted to athletes.
He also sent greetings to a Liberty County High School alumna who is deployed to Kuwait as a physical therapist stationed with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning.
Capt. Jamie Morris is the daughter of Liberty County Pre-K Center Principal Shelby Bush. Though she did not attend Florida, her father did, so she was raised a Gator and is a fan of Meyer.
Scott asked Meyer to pose with a sign that reads: “Hello, Capt. Jamie (Bush) Morris. Stay safe and come home soon! God Bless, Urban Meyer.”
Scott emailed the photo to her former student.
Meyer even asked for Morris’ address to follow up.
“Whether he does that or not, the fact that he held up a sign that said ‘Hello Jamie,’ it thrilled Jamie, … she put on Facebook last night,” Bush said, adding her daughter’s response was “sweet” and “priceless.”
“’I have the best principal ever. Thank you Ms. Scott for thinking of me, what a great surprise,’” she said. “We loved him at Florida, but he chose to go back home to Ohio, and it’s not about just football, it’s about the person.”
Bush said another big name also was in town: Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt.
One of the Pre-K Center teachers snuck over to the high school to meet the Dawgs coach during his visit.
“I think everybody is just really excited about it,” Bush said, adding it’s refreshing to hear positive stories come out about an athlete who is well-rounded.
Richt also strayed from athletics and visited with a special-education student during his time on campus, Bush and Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said.
“The stories we’re hearing are just absolutely wonderful,” Bush said. “This is a boy that will never be on the football field or see the sidelines, but for a little bit of time, he had a smile on his face because somebody took the time to talk to him. It’s just wonderful.”
“It’s an exciting day to have those kind of big-name coaches walking around the building, and they’ve had a whole slew of them; the Clemson guy’s been there, the Auburn guy’s been there; Notre Dame, Ohio State, the new Florida coach,” Scherer added.