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Urban Meyer Details Ambien Addiction on ‘Untold,’ Thought He Was ‘Going to Die’ During Stint at Florida

Urban Meyer Details Ambien Addiction
Urban Meyer  FilmMagic for Sports Illustrated

Urban Meyer is front and center during Untold: Swamp Kings, a four-part docuseries about the success and controversies surrounding the University of Florida football team from 2005-2010.

Meyer became the Gators’ head coach in 2005. During his second season, Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow defeated The Ohio State University to win Florida’s first national championship since 1997. Meyer told Netflix cameras that he thought he was “going to have fun” coaching for the rest of his life after the big win.

“[It was] probably the most incorrect statement to come out of a human being’s mouth,” he said.

While Swamp Kings only scratched the surface when it comes to off screen scandals surrounding the Florida team (including multiple arrests and Aaron Hernandez’s arrest and conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd), Meyer’s personal ups and downs were explored. After the Gators secured their second national championship during the 2008-09 season, he felt the pressure to continue the program’s success.

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“We go in the locker room and I remember grabbing my phone, locking the door. I can hear them celebrating and I’m texting recruits, worried about the next class,” Meyer recalled of moments after Florida beat Oklahoma in January 2009. “You won two national championships out of the three years, this was an expectation now — an expectation we have to win it next year, and then we have to win it the year after. … Anything less than winning a national title and you’re a failure.”

While Tebow surprised some fans by returning for the 2009 season, Meyer wasn’t on his best game.

Urban Meyer Details Ambien Addiction 2
Urban Meyer  FilmMagic

“Nothing was good enough in ‘09. We would win a game by 14 points and I’d be so angry at our team because I thought we should’ve beat them by 30 points,” Meyer said. “We’re undefeated and the entire time I’m in anguish about not being perfect, and it permeated down to our players.”

Meyer noted he was “in a really bad place for a long time.”

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“I started to lose weight, and I became addicted to Ambien. I couldn’t sleep, so I’d take an Ambien and then that was not working. So it got to the point where I’d drink two Ambien and drink a beer on top of it just to get four hours of sleep,” he said. “I’d have those moments where I would just sit there and I’d start sweating, shaking, like, a panic attack. Like, ‘Something’s going on here. We’re not ready, we’re not ready.’”

The No. 1 Gators ended the 2009 season undefeated but lost to No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game that December. “I felt like a failure. I was in a deep depression,” Meyer said. “I couldn’t get out of bed. … [I had] no energy, no desire. I thought I was going to die.”

Meyer then announced he wasn’t returning for the 2010 season.

“Everyone’s shocked. A lot of guys are in tears, and I think some guys were mad. Some guys were emotional,” Tebow said. “We’re playing for the SEC Championship, No. 1 team in the country, about to win another SEC and go play for another National Championship. We lose, we’re shocked, we’re stunned. A couple days later, he says he’s retiring, he’s ill — what happened.”

While Meyer changed his mind two months later and returned for the 2010 season, he announced his exit again after the team went 8-5.

“You can chase perfection all you want, you’re going to come up empty-handed. I did everything I [could] just to keep myself and that program going,” Meyer said. “I hope someday to apology and say, ‘I wish it could’ve ended differently,’ but I can always look back and say we gave it our very best.’”

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Citing health issues, Meyer took the 2011 season off and went on to coach at OSU in 2012, winning the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship in 2014. Ryan Day took over the head coaching job for the Buckeyes in 2018, while Meyer began a broadcasting career. In 2021, he became the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a stint that ended with the NFL team going 2-11 and resulted in Meyer having one of the shortest coaching tenures in the league’s history.

“It was the worst experience I’ve had in my professional lifetime,” Meyer said on the “Don’t @ Me” podcast in 2022. “What really got me, I almost don’t want to say people accept it, I mean, you lose a game, and you just keep … I would seriously have self-talk. I went through that whole depression thing too, where I’d stare at the ceilings and [think] ‘Are we doing everything possible?’ because I really believed we had a roster that was good enough to win games. I just don’t think we did a great job.”

Untold: Swamp Kings starts streaming on Netflix Tuesday, August 22.

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