Different paths lead to Meyer-Beckman reunion

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Twelve years ago, Urban Meyer held his first practice as the head coach at Bowling Green. And as he reviewed the film from what was a major milestone in his coaching career, Meyer spotted an intruder on his field.

"You could see all of a sudden on the first play, there's this guy standing not too close to me. The second play a little closer, and then the third play I noticed this guy's right near the quarterback. He's like in the B-gap," Meyer recollected. "I said, 'Who the hell is that?'"

Paranoid as you might imagine the then 36-year-old was witnessing a stranger interfere in his practice, it wasn't until he asked the question twice more that he got an answer from the back of the room. As Meyer worried about a crazed fan or opposing coach getting an up-close look at the Falcons, an embarrassed Tim Beckman explained to his new boss who the man was.

"Finally, Tim in the back of the room says, 'Coach, that's my dad. He's just a coach, he couldn't take it anymore. He's up there coaching the line,'" Meyer recalled. "I said 'Tim, get him the hell out of the way.'"

Keeping him around the program but away from his practice field, Meyer built a great deal of respect for Tim's father, Dave Beckman, a former assistant coach at the University of Iowa, who the now Ohio State coach still jokingly refers to as "the real Coach Beckman." And thanks to the success that Meyer and the younger Beckman found in their two seasons together at Bowling Green, the two soon went their separate ways.

After Meyer parlayed a 17-6 record in two seasons with the Falcons into a new head coaching job at Utah -- and eventually two national championships in six seasons at Florida -- Beckman kept his job as Bowling Green's defensive coordinator for two more seasons, before accepting a job as the cornerbacks coach at Ohio State. After stints as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and the head coach at Toledo, Beckman accepted the Illinois head coaching job last December, nearly a week after Meyer took over his new job in Columbus.

The two former co-workers will reunite in Ohio Stadium this Saturday when Meyer's Buckeyes host Beckman's Fighting Illini, but the success that the two have found in their debut seasons at their new jobs couldn't be anymore dissimilar.

While Meyer has transformed what was a 6-7 team a year ago into the only 9-0 team in the country, which has a legitimate shot at going undefeated and doubling its win total from last season, the Illini have struggled under Beckman, accumulating a 2-6 record, while still searching for their first win in Big Ten play this year. The lack of success in Champaign has clearly taken a toll on the first-year coach, who disclosed earlier this week that he has lost 22 pounds since the season started in September.

"You want to win. And you're in this profession to win. I'm proud of the way that our players have handled this, but they want to win too, and they're in this game to try to be as successful as you possibly can be," Beckman said. "I want to win, and that's just as easily as I can say it."

Busy with his own team, Meyer admitted that he hasn't kept in touch with his former assistant throughout what is undoubtedly one of the toughest tests of his coaching career. But given the capabilities of the Illinois program -- which is five years removed from a Rose Bowl appearance -- and Meyer's experience with Beckman, the OSU coach is confident that the Illini are headed in the right direction, if for no other reason than the qualities that the crazy coach who interrupted his first college practice instilled in his son.

"He's one of the bright young coaches. He's got an excellent background, including his entire life being the son of a coach," Meyer said. "I have great respect for Tim, and there is no doubt he'll get that thing turned."