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Meyer, ROP have much in common

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Charles Whisnand

YERINGTON – What Urban Meyer accomplished with the University of Utah football team last season is really no different from what Rite of Passage Silver State Academy does in placing students on the right track.

So it made sense that Meyer was the keynote speaker during ROP’s graduation ceremony and 20th year celebration on Thursday.

ROP takes students heading in the wrong direction and places them on the right path. Meyer took a program in Utah that was stuck in mediocrity and in the span of a year has positioned it on the verge of becoming a national power.

Meyer receives 500 invitations in a year. “I try to pick one that seems like the right thing to do,” said Meyer about deciding what invitation to accept. “This seems like the right thing to do.

“I was kind of excited to come out here. I just thought this was a good opportunity for me.”

Meyer said many people helped him along the way, so whenever there’s a chance to “help people, I try to do it.” So even though Meyer was heading to Palm Springs, Calif., last night, he squeezed in a trip to ROP.

“I love it,” said Meyer about his trip to ROP. “It’s actually the first time I’ve been to a school of this type. It’s really neat.”

When talking about what he does and what ROP does, Meyer said, “It’s the same, to push kinds in the right direction.”

In his first year as Utah football coach last season, Meyer quickly pushed the Utes into the right direction. Meyer came from Bowling Green where he posted a 17-6 record over the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

Utah was coming off a 5-6 mark in 2002, but Meyer led the Utes to a 10-2 record in 2003, which including the Mountain West Conference title and a 17-0 win over Southern Mississippi in the Liberty Bowl. Sporting News named Meyer as its Coach of the Year.

The Utes and ROP have something in common. While Utah won its conference title, ROP won the NIAA 3A state boys basketball title last weekend.

“Utah actually was kind of a joke for a while,” Meyer said. So Meyer said he changed everything about the program, which was the focus of his talk during Thursday’s ceremony.

He said the point for students at ROP was to “get some new direction and change what you’re doing.”

Meyer met a student from Utah who has done exactly that. “He was heading in the wrong direction,” Meyer said. “Now he feels good about himself. Now there’s a chance he’s going to go on and have some success.”

Last season “was just the result of the kids doing the right thing,” Meyer said. “We had to fight through a lot of injuries and a lot of issues.”

Utah also beat California and Oregon last season and since the Utes go head-to-head with the Pac 10 in recruiting, those wins couldn’t be underestimated.

“That was very important for us to have success against them,” Meyer said. “All of that is just positive information for recruits.”

There’s even the possibility that Utah will eventually join the Pac 10, Meyer said. “There’s talk about us some day joining the Pac 10,” he said. “That very well could happen.”

The Utes’ recruiting class this year was ranked first in the Mountain West. Meyer admitted that he hasn’t recruited in Nevada, but will begin to look at the Reno and Las Vegas areas.

Utah has a strong nucleus returning from last year’s team and has already received a No. 14 preseason ranking from ESPN.com.

“We’ve got a lot of guys back,” said Meyer, whose team begins spring practice on March 24. “Everybody’s excited. Everybody’s working their butt off which is all that matters.”