For about 21/2 months, Florida's Steve Addazio juggled the roles of offensive coordinator and interim head coach in the absence of coach Urban Meyer.
It was Addazio who had the football program placed in his hands after Meyer resigned Dec. 26 then announced the next day he would take an indefinite leave of absence instead. Addazio, 50, was designated to help save the Gators' class during the critical January recruiting period (while Meyer worked the phones).
Addazio, who has been with Florida since Meyer's arrival in 2005, has subsequently filled in on the spring booster tour while Meyer continues his sabbatical for health and family reasons.
Tonight, Addazio will speak to the Tampa Gator Club, one of his six Florida appearances. He recently spoke about his role during Meyer's time off, why he's thrilled to be on the booster circuit and how he manages to keep stress from overtaking his life.
Can you talk about your relationship with Urban Meyer because I'm not sure many people know you guys go back a long way.
It started when I was at Syracuse and he was at Notre Dame and we were recruiting in eastern Pennsylvania. I think it was Central Buck West or East. I can't remember which one it was. We both were recruiting the same kid, and they were having a workout at some ridiculous time, like 5 a.m. or something like that. And the only two nuts that were there were he and I. We were going to be ready for the very start of that workout. So we struck up a friendship there. We went out and got a bite to eat that night. We just talked. And really, it was shortly after that that Kevin Rogers, who was the (offensive) coordinator at Syracuse, went over to Notre Dame and I joined him at Notre Dame with Urban. And we were all on the staff together as assistant coaches. We had a heck of a time.
When Coach Meyer resigned in December then returned, what was your role in keeping things together with staff and recruits?
At that point in time, my whole focus really was on Urban, our program, our players, our families and the commitment to help get through that period of time. And I've told people this, and I feel very strongly about it: Florida was really good to the Addazios, and Urban and Shelley Meyer have been really good to the Addazio family. So I'm just really honored that I had a chance to come to the University of Florida. I love it, and I love Urban. So for me to have an opportunity to give something back to this program — in whatever small way I could do it — really meant a lot to me to be able to do that. So my whole energy and focus just went into whatever we had to do as a team, as a staff, as a program to keep pushing that thing forward. It's a great program. Urban built the program based on a solid foundation, and I knew that if we all pitched in together, we would be able to keep this thing going at a high, high level and get through that period of time. And it was real rewarding to watch everyone react and really rise up. I thought it was fantastic.
Are you different now than you were a year ago? I know you've been an offensive coordinator before, but are you more comfortable with the role especially since things have subsided with Coach Meyer's situation?
I think in this business, you always grow. To say that you're not (different), that's crazy. Without question, I think you become more comfortable as a coordinator. I think that's natural. To say that I was uncomfortable before, that wouldn't be true. I was totally comfortable. But as you grow and you get used to all the things, it's like anything else. Every job I've ever had, I always look back and say, you know what? I grew from Year 2 to Year 3 to Year 4. You always feel that way, and I think that you should. If you don't, then something is probably wrong. Am I exactly the same? No, I'd like to feel that you're always growing and you're developing professionally, and the more things you're doing, the more comprehensive you are.
Do you have a set speech on the booster tour, or are you winging it as you go?
I just kind of wing it. I have certain topics, obviously. I'm talking about our team and our program, which is somewhat redundant. But then I try to bring something a little different to each one and keep it fresh and lively a little bit. It keeps me having some fun with it.
You've had some long Q&A sessions. Is this an opportunity for people to get to know Steve Addazio as well?
To me, people come out to hear about our program, and I just want to give them all I can give them. I feel like that's the least that I can do. So I have no issues after I'm speaking taking as many questions as people have. I appreciate the fact people care.
Are you confident Coach Meyer is on the right track to return in the fall?
Oh, he's doing great. He looks great. He feels great. Everything is good. I'm happy to see him feeling so good and doing so well.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.