Brad Bournival

When Ohio State faces Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer’s career will have come full circle.

Or 180 degrees, depending on how you look at it.

Meyer, who is in his 30th year at the collegiate level, started out as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, but his first head coaching gig came at Bowling Green where he mentored the Falcons from 2001-02.

Times were a little bit different back then for the three-time national champion coach to say the least.

“So I walk in the first workout, they’re in Budweiser T-shirts, stuff like that,” Meyer said. “So we had to — obviously that’s not going to make it real well with us — so I started going berserk like I do. And we didn’t have the money to have the workout gear. Everybody’s wearing different colored shoes.

“… So I worked out a deal [with Adidas]. It was like 2,500 bucks or something. And they said, ‘We’ll get you some shoes.’ They came and I think they were blue and gray.

“Their colors are orange and brown. But it didn’t matter. Man, the kids got blue and gray shoes to wear. That tells you the expectation level of those young people, ‘Hey, thanks for the T-shirt, Coach, I appreciate it,’ but no one said these aren’t our colors. But they got a free T-shirt and a pair of shoes.”

New shoes, no problem the rest of the way as he took a team that won two games the season before and went 8-3.

Not that he saw any of that coming before his season opener against Missouri.

“We sat there, I looked at Shelley [his wife], ‘What if we lose every game we play,’ because who knew? She said, ‘I bet you win tomorrow.’ I looked at her and I said, ‘We have no freaking chance of winning this game tomorrow.’

“Something happened in the middle of the night. I remember waking up, our staff and our players thought they’d win it, and they did.”

They opened with a 20-13 victory and also picked up wins over Northwestern and Toledo. Meyer won Mid-American Coach of the Year and started a head coaching career that has blossomed.

“He came in and was like, ‘Oh, it was just bad, bad, bad,’?” Ohio State guard Billy Price said. “The next thing you know he just wipes the table with them.”

A lot of his early wins had to do with coaching, but it was also grasping a team philosophy and sticking to it.

At Ohio State, he started with “The Chase” of a national title. After claiming one, he wanted the Buckeyes to embrace “The Grind” in 2015. This season, he wants Ohio State to cross over “The Edge” from average to elite.

It all started as a head coach with Bowling Green, where he got the team to rally around one specific ranking and push toward greatness.

“It’s one of the really neat experiences, zero expectations,” Meyer said. “You don’t experience that much anymore. But I remember we got — one of those preseason magazines came out — I think we were 129, or 119 or something like that. That was our ranking.

“I thought, ‘You have to be blank-ing me’ when I saw that. I didn’t know there were 129 teams or 119 [teams], 120 teams. [I] posted that in the weight room, a 36-year-old coach trying to get a team motivated that was ranked preseason 119. Good thing is we did not finish 119.”

His teams always find ways to rally around such ideas. It’s what has taken them from teams that exceed expectations and has made them into national contenders year in and year out.

“When he was there, he told us about how he wanted to build things and start traditions,” Buckeyes defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis said. “How it was here, he wanted to do there. He gave that team a tradition and he has built off of that.”