COLUMBUS — Although Urban Meyer has only been with this year's Ohio State senior class for one season, it doesn't prevent him from labeling them as one of his favorite groups ever.
Coming into this season, Meyer didn't know many of them at all, and when it was announced that the Buckeyes would be prohibited from participating in postseason play, the new head coach didn't know what to expect.
Would they put their heads down and cry? Would they quit or not give the new staff an opportunity to coach them? Would they bolt for another program?
These are all things that crossed Meyer's mind when he was informed of the sanctions.
"It's tough. It's tough," Meyer said. "I usually get emotional talking about those guys.
"Those kids could have all went wherever they wanted to go. I still remember that day when we walked in, and they said, you're not going to a bowl game. I thought, we're not what? And then my mind started thinking about this year's team. Those seniors, if I remember right, if I read the rules right, they can pick up and go without punishment."
However, the reaction of his new — but veteran — troops was inspiring.
"I called a team meeting, and within 15 minutes, we had one," Meyer said. "I kept the seniors after. I had no idea who they were, and they didn't know me, so it was a leap of faith. I think it was also the love for their school. When you look at these kids, now that I know them, I know exactly why they stayed ...
"For the love of Ohio State."
Meyer said he has a great appreciation for the senior class. For all that they had went through, for all that they were facing, and yet it was the colors, and the pride of being a Buckeye that made them move forward.
"It's really cool in this day and age to witness that," Meyer said. "We're forever indebted to them because they didn't have to do what they did. I should say that because they certainly didn't owe Urban Meyer or this coaching staff a thing.
"Their love of this university was very apparent that day."
It shouldn't take anyone by surprise this Saturday when the seniors are being announced if Meyer sheds a tear or two.
Especially when the name John Simon is announced.
"We hit it off right away," Meyer said of Simon. "He's here, he wakes up in the morning and comes over here, and he's just here every second of the day. You really get to know a guy. He's from Youngstown. We're from near the same area. I know his high school. I know his high school coaches. I know everybody in that area real well. So it didn't take me long to find out who he is.
"But I like to develop my own opinion. You meet his family. You meet him. You meet his girlfriend. My son had a baseball game over the summer, and he came and sat with his girlfriend, sat with me for a bunch of hours and watched baseball. So that just tells you what he's all about.
"(Simon's) the best. He's the best."
Senior fullback/linebacker Zach Boren's name being called should keep the Buckeyes' mentor reaching for the tissues, as well.
"One of the great stories, in my mind, in college football and certainly in Ohio State history," Meyer said of Boren. "What he's done, the selfless approach. I can only speak on, I guess, our coaching staff and myself, but the selfless approach and what he would do for this team is extraordinary.
"Incredible human being."
Meyer said this season has been a learning experience ... more for him than the senior class. He said he is appreciative of them and is focused on having them close out their careers in Columbus with a victory.
"Well, I certainly learned more from them I think, when you mention our senior class," Meyer said. "I learned a tremendous amount from them, just the way they handle themselves. You figure what these guys have been through. Talk about Zach Boren. You want someone to write a book? Wow, that would be good if you go write a book on Zach Boren.
"That's what I learned. I'm always trying to learn from people. I learned from our coaching staff. But I learned from the senior class of John Simon, who hasn't been healthy all year and fighting through it. Zach Boren on a Tuesday before Indiana steps in and plays (defense). Four periods later, 20 minutes later he's a starting linebacker, middle linebacker at Ohio State.
"I haven't had much chance to reflect because I want to put these guys in position to go win a game," Meyer continued. "So there hasn't been a whole lot of reflection.
"But very appreciative of where I'm at and who I'm doing it with."
The seniors will take the field at Ohio Stadium this Saturday for the final time, as they host rival Michigan at noon.