November 24, 2008

Daughter of Urban Meyer commits to Tech

It won't be difficult for Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz senior Nicki Meyer to transition as a Yellow Jacket.

The daughter of Florida football coach Urban Meyer already has a distaste for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Nicki, a 5-foot-6 libero, signed to play volleyball at Georgia Tech last Monday, passing over offers from schools such as Tennessee, South Florida, Ohio, Cincinnati − her parents' alma mater − and Utah, where her father coached before coming to Florida in 2005.

"It's funny because I already have that rivalry," Nicki said. "I already hate Georgia, so it all works out."

And at least she isn't going to another school in the SEC, she said.

"That was definitely taken into consideration," Nicki said. "Tennessee is an awesome school, but my parents were afraid for me to play somewhere in the SEC. They were afraid of people being harassing and mean."

Her father had influences in other ways too, though he left the final decision up to Nicki.

Because Nicki is the oldest of three children in the Meyer family, this was Urban Meyer's first time on the parenting end of the recruiting process.

"It was different, obviously, being on the other end of the recruiting conversation," Urban said. "I told Nicki to be very respectful during the process because I understand how much time and effort a coaching staff puts into recruiting each student-athlete."

But he also didn't make it any easier on the coaches recruiting her.

Urban went along on Nicki's unofficial visit to Georgia Tech in June and had plenty of questions for coach Bond Shymansky.

"He knows everything the coach is thinking and what kinds of questions to ask, so he grilled Bond," Nicki said, laughing at the recollection.

Shymansky must have passed the test. Nicki committed the next day.

"I loved everything about it," said Nicki, who is thinking of a major in psychology or communications. "They're redoing a lot of the campus, so everything looks new, and everything was just amazing. It was perfect. I couldn't find one thing I didn't like."

This time last year, Nicki would have told you she was going to college in Utah or Ohio, though. She has family in Ohio, where her father grew up and got his first college head coaching job at Bowling Green in 2001. Nicki has always loved Utah, where her father coached from 2003-04.

But once she started looking at Georgia Tech and South Florida at the end of club season her junior year, Utah and Ohio seemed too far from home.

"Reality kind of hit me that I didn't want to be that far from my family," Nicki said. "I don't want a five-hour flight to go see them. That's why I like Atlanta. It's a drivable trip."

Nicki didn't even realize college volleyball would be an option until her sophomore year, mainly because it wasn't a serious thing before then.

She started playing volleyball in fifth grade at the encouragement of her mother, Shelley, who had played volleyball growing up. It took Nicki a while to warm up to volleyball. Her youth was somewhat nomadic because of her father's career path, so volleyball became a way to meet people in every new town the Meyer family visited. At one point, Nicki attended four schools in a span of five years.

Always being the new kid, Nicki often was asked to switch positions to fill whatever holes were left open. When she got to Buchholz freshman year, she was the tallest person on the team, so the Bobcats used her as an outside hitter. However, Nicki stopped growing and had to find a new role by the next year.

Buchholz coach Jeff Reavis recognized her speed and turned her into a libero her sophomore season, and it was then that Nicki finally found her niche.

"She is a super fast athlete with great hand-eye coordination," said Reavis, who also is director of Nicki's club team, the Gainesville Juniors. "She can pass and play defense − she is kind of like the shortstop of the team.

"I knew she had the ability, we just had to get her in a position where she could be elite."

Nicki went on to win a Class 6A state title with Buchholz in 2007, recording a match-best five aces in a three-game sweep over Plant City Durant.

Her dad even made it to the match, though he coached the Gators in a game against Florida Atlantic earlier that day.

"The match was at 7, and he came in around 6:30," Reavis said. "It's impossible to always be there, but he works really hard at it."

Urban Meyer has enjoyed being on the sideline for Nicki's success.

She guided Buchholz to a 22-8 season this year, ending her high school career in the regional finals and two days later marking the next phase of her career at a signing ceremony at the school. Her parents and younger sister, Gigi, were in attendance for the event.

"I'm really proud to have her accept a scholarship offer from Georgia Tech to play volleyball," Urban Meyer said. "She has put in a lot of effort to get to this point in her academic and athletic career."

Meyer has tried to play an active role in helping Nicki improve by practicing with her whenever they get time, though Nicki said "he knows nothing about volleyball."

"He just hits it at me all day long − we did that all the time this summer when we were on vacation and stuff," Nicki said. "He doesn't know what he is doing, so I just tell him to hit it at me."

Regardless, Nicki has fun with him and is thankful for her relationship with her father. Life as "Urban Meyer's daughter" has been pretty good.

"For the most part, it's really cool," Meyer said. "He goes to work, and he comes home and he is just our dad. He's been so successful, and it's just really cool to watch him. With everything he has done, he is just someone I have really been able to look up to."

Who knows? Maybe she will end up coaching volleyball one day, she said.

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