Bill Davis was the best man at Urban Meyer’s wedding. He gave a speech. All he remembers is that it was short.
Twenty eight years later, Davis will coach linebackers on Meyer’s staff with the Ohio State Buckeyes. A connection that started when they were young players with the Cincinnati Bearcats — even then both knew they wanted to get into coaching — resulted in the Buckeyes gaining another coach with NFL experience.
The Youngstown native Davis coached 24 years in the NFL, most recently as defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons. Davis was a volunteer analyst for Ohio State last season. He came to visit, and Meyer talked him into staying. He joined the staff officially in December when co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell left to become the head coach at Cincinnati.
Davis spoke to the media Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after Ohio State’s third spring practice. The Buckeyes will practice again Thursday and then 10 more times before the spring game at 12:30 p.m. April 15 at Ohio Stadium.
“It’s been great,” Davis said. “The age group is different. That’s probably the biggest thing and the schoolwork they have to do. In the NFL, they don’t have that. But what a great group of young men we have here. They’re fun to work with. It’s been exciting to see the big, bright, wide-open eyes. Guys are more of an open book than you find in the NFL.”
The same could be said for Davis because he has so little college coaching experience. He was a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1991 and then became a defensive assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over the years, he had stints with the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Atlantic Falcons, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, the Browns again and the Eagles.
Recruiting was not a part of the job at any point in the NFL.
“It’s brand new to me,” Davis said. “Like I tell coach Meyer, that’s a positive. You tell me how you want it done, and that’s how you’re going to get it done. The way we do recruiting here is I’m a blank slate. He’s making me the way he wants me to be, and I’m attacking the recruiting trail like the rest of the staff is.”
The addition of Davis and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day gives Ohio State three coaches with NFL experience. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, a former head coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is entering his second season at Ohio State.
The players noticed the difference when Davis took over the linebacker group.
“He definitely has a NFL feel to him,” linebacker Chris Worley said. “He’s a little different than coach Fick in how he teaches. They teach the same things. They just teach them in different ways. It’s up to us to adapt to it. He’s still adapting as well.”
Davis sees many similarities between Ohio State and NFL teams. The talent level is one. In fact, 13 former Buckeyes and one Tiffin University player will show their skills for scouts today at Ohio State’s annual pro day.
Davis knows the reputation Ohio State players have when they come to the NFL.
“What separates Ohio State guys is the total growing of the man,” Davis said. “I’m really in awe of how coach Meyer and his staff and his system grows a human being, not just a football player. What we find in the NFL with the Ohio State guys is their mental toughness. They go through this system with the grind. They come in so mentally tough it’s tough to trip up the Ohio State guys. That’s why you see the young guys succeeding in the NFL. The talent level is the same. We get guys from Alabama, Auburn or wherever else but the guys at Ohio State succeed really because of the mental toughness program they go through.”