ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was two years ago, while doing television analysis for the 2013 BCS National Championship in Miami, that Urban Meyer walked onto the field, soaked it all in and sent out a mass text to everybody associated with the Ohio State football program.
His message was short and sweet.
The chase is on.
That chase reached the finish line, the first of what might be many finish lines to come, on Monday night as both Meyer and Ohio State carved out a little slice of history. The Buckeyes won the first College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T with a punishing 42-20 demolition of Oregon.
And along the way, Meyer continued to chase coaching immortality, bringing to the forefront a question everybody will be asking now, and rightly so: Where does he rank among the greatest to ever coach in the college game?
"I'd have to say that he's as good as any of them," said Bobby Bowden, who won two national championships during his Hall of Fame career at Florida State. "If he stays healthy, I don't see what's going to prevent him from getting a few more national championships. One of the best things he does is that he's a great organizer. He's a positive thinker and a tireless worker, and he's proven that he's a great coach everywhere he's been."
Meyer, who won national championships in 2006 and 2008 at Florida, joined an exclusive fraternity Monday with his third national championship. He and Nick Saban are the only two FBS head coaches to win national titles at two different schools. Saban won one at LSU in 2003 and won three at Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Meyer, who's now an incredible 38-3 in three seasons at Ohio State, has not only taken home college football's top prize at two different schools, but he's also done it in two different conferences.
Nobody else can make that claim.
"Look at his impact at Bowling Green. Look at his impact at Utah. They were undefeated there and didn't have a chance to win it all," said former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, part of both national championship teams at Florida and now an ESPN analyst. "His legacy is only going to improve, and that's important to him, as well -- not just his legacy with the championships, but his legacy with the players that he has coached and the relationships and his impact on college football. That means a lot to him."
Not lost on anybody, and only validating Meyer's lofty standing among the game's greats, is that he won a title this season with a quarterback, Cardale Jones, who was No. 3 on the depth chart back in August. If that's not enough, the Buckeyes had to replace four starters from their offensive line a year ago and lost seven players from the 2013 team to the NFL.
"He's done as good a coaching job as anybody I can remember, in my estimation," said former Texas coach Mack Brown, who won the 2005 national title. "I went to watch them practice before the season, and he had a really young team that was talented. I thought they were a year away, and then he loses two quarterbacks. No. 1, nobody even has three quarterbacks like that. No. 2, nobody can get three ready. And No. 3, nobody wins [a national championship] with their third quarterback.
"He's had so many things that could have split his team apart, and every time something happened, he was able to pull them closer together. He's been doing this for a while, but just keeps getting better."
Like most of the great ones, Meyer hasn't allowed himself to get caught up in what any of this means. There will be time for that on down the road, which probably explains why Meyer is now 3-for-3 in national championship game matchups.
"The game is what's important. That's your focus," said Saban, whose Crimson Tide lost to Meyer and the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff semifinal. "Urban understands that. He's been here before. His experience in these types of games helps in making sure your players maintain that focus and don't get sidetracked by any of the other stuff going on, and you see that in the way his teams play.
"I also doubt he thinks about the consequences of winning a championship at another school. That's not something I was thinking about in 2009 when we played Texas. You're thinking about that game and that opponent. The challenge is more making sure that your team plays its best game in a setting that's not always conducive to playing your best game with everything else going on around you, and that's where Urban has been so good."
Similar to what everybody was asking after Saban won three national titles in a span of four years from 2009-12, it's only fair to ask now where this road in Columbus will lead to under Meyer, who's only 50 years old and seemingly just getting started at Ohio State.
"It's a testimony to Urban's ability and his prowess that he would win one at two different schools," said former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who won three national championships during his Hall of Fame career with the Cornhuskers. "It's hard enough to win just one national championship, so I applaud everything Urban has accomplished and what I'm sure he will accomplish as he continues his career. He's certainly one of the great coaches we have in college football."
Meyer and Osborne are among just four head coaches still living who've won three national championships since 1936 (AP or coaches polls only). Saban and Barry Switzer are the other two. The entire list includes 11 coaches, led by Bear Bryant with six.
"I found this out when I was at Florida State," Bowden said. "When you win one, your people expect you to do it every year. You really build a monster. It's like a guy who has a million dollars. He wants 2 million dollars. I'm sure Urban's in it to win some more, and he's at a school where you can do it.
"I know coaches don't stay around nowadays at one school as long as they did when I was coaching, but Urban has just not shown any flaws wherever he's been. And one of his greatest assets has been choosing the right job. There aren't a lot of jobs out there better than Florida and Ohio State."
Gary Andersen, who worked under Meyer at Utah in 2004 and recently left Wisconsin for the Oregon State head job, said buried amid the glitter of Meyer's championships has been the impact he has made on his players.
"Urban Meyer is a great person, and he admires the game and respects the game of college football and the kids involved in the game," Andersen said. "To me, that is the best thing you can say about Urban Meyer. The championships are great, and all those things are wonderful. But I promise you, that's not first and foremost for him. It's the ability he has to be involved and change young men's lives.
"I guarantee you the rings and the championships and all the other stuff are awesome. It's a big part of it. It's a great thing. But it's not what he puts on his pedestal. It's his kids and his family, and that's why I have such great respect for him."
Tebow has lived it.
"I knew he was special when he started recruiting me," Tebow said. "That's why I went to Florida, because of Urban. Florida is an awesome school, but I was leaning toward Alabama until Urban got there. That's what swayed me. He's someone you believe in because he believes in himself, believes in you, believes in his system and what he can do for you as a person and as a football player, and you're only seeing the start of great things at Ohio State."
Ohio State star defensive tackle Michael Bennett still remembers one of the first things Meyer told him when he arrived on campus.
"That the plan is infallible," Bennett recounted. "He said, 'Follow the plan I have in place, and it's going to work.' The thing he does better than anybody is getting guys to buy in no matter what's happening anywhere else or what that player has or hasn't done in the past.
"You get a whole team of guys playing with that kind of confidence and belief in each other, and it's a powerful thing."
A championship thing, too.
Meyer did his best late Monday night to pass along all of the credit to his players.
"I'm humbled ... and appreciate the people who did it, and that's our players," Meyer said. "I made a comment and will never forget something Bill Parcells said: It's like a blood transfer. We're officially brothers for the rest of our lives because we're champions."
According to Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes' star running back, there's one champion who's shown them the way.
"You come here wanting to win, wanting to win championships," said Elliott, who rushed for 246 yards against Oregon and was the game's offensive MVP. "Coach Meyer is a winner. That's what he is, and I'd say this won't be his last one."
Yep, the chase is on.