COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Eleven-year-old Kate Amato has a smile that lights up a room. Urban Meyer vouched for that.
"Gorgeous," Meyer said.
She's also stolen his heart. That was evidenced by the Ohio State coach taking time out of his week preparing for Saturday's game with Michigan to flip through several pictures on his phone of them together. Some were taken at Nationwide Children's Hospital last week.
Kate, from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, was there to continue treatment for cancer — rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive form that attacks skeletal muscle tissue primarily. She was in her third round of treatment for the disease that first showed up two years ago.
Meyer met her while both attended the Tim Tebow Foundation function in Florida last year. Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett befriended her, too, and when he found out a couple of months ago she'd be in Columbus for treatments, he encouraged Meyer to " 'take care of my girl,' " Meyer said.
Over the weeks he had Kate and her mother, Lisa, over for lunch at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, they visited practice a few times, and Meyer visited her at the hospital. Meyer took gifts, but more importantly, her mother said, he took the time.
"We've been exposed to quite a few pretty amazing people in the last couple of years since she's been sick, but in the context of it, you just really don't care. It's like, 'Hi, nice to meet you,' but it doesn't really affect you in the same way it otherwise would probably," Lisa Amato said Wednesday after she and Kate returned home.
"What I will tell you, though, is that aside from Urban's celebrity — because Kate didn't know who he was to begin with — what she loves about him is how kind and loving he has been to her.
"So beyond being a football coach he loved on her and tried to make her smile, teased and played around like she was his granddaughter. And he was very kind and loving and comforting to me. So he's just a good man, and I think he was trying to be compassionate to a family that needed it, and that's all it was about."
Meyer, who makes such visits part of his life and encourages his players to do the same, said, "I've changed so much ever since I got to coach Tim Tebow," his former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner. "To see his impact — Tim lives his life for a lot of reasons, but no more than if he has a chance to make someone's day brighter, he does that. . He impacted me."
Lisa Amato not only senses Meyer's sincerity, she has evidence.
"Since last Thursday he has texted every day to see how she's doing," she said. "He truly cares about her and I think has grown to love her."
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com