A Tribute To Tressel
In this job, you get to see a lot of cool moments. Many of them come on the playing field, court, or ice. But last night, it was something away from the usual live sports action that ranked right up there with one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
It came at the Cherish The Moment Social for the Kidz ‘n Kamp organization, which helps families touched by childhood cancer. It is a very worthy cause, so it should come as no surprise that Jim and Ellen Tressel supported it in their 10 years in Columbus. The last few years, Ellen had served as honorary chair.
And while last night was about raising money for kids and their families, it was also about honoring a coach that impacted hundreds of young men who played for Ohio State from 2001-2011.
When Jim Tressel arrived to the restaurant M, little did he know 11 of his former player would be on hand to not only greet him, but later, share their favorite memories of him. It was a surprise set up by Kids ‘n Kamp and executed flawlessly by the players and Ellen. The smile that came on Coach Tressel’s face when he saw the players is something I’ll never forget as well as the way he embraced each and every player as if they were his son. He even made sure he had something different to say to each of them, such as asking Anthony Gonzalez if he was still on progress to finish school, telling Dane Sanzenbacher about a child at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who is a big fan of his, and asking Malcolm Jenkins about his first year of marriage.
But it was the tributes that really made the night. Along with Gonzalez, Sanzenbacher and Jenkins, Bobby Carpenter, Ted Ginn Jr., Ben Hartsock, Cie Grant, Mike Doss, Donnie Nickey, A.J. Hawk, Santonio Holmes, James Laurinaitis and Troy Smith were all on hand to share their favorite moments with Coach Tressel. Even Craig Krenzel recorded his favorite moment, despite not being able to be there.
Some of the moments were hilarious, like Jenkins recounting Tressel punishing him after spiking the ball and celebrating with fans after a pick 6. Others more philosophical, in how Tressel taught them lessons that they took with them to the NFL and beyond. But no moment compares to the one Smith shared when he explained how one meeting with Tressel and Gene Smith put him on the right path. His testimony was so touching, it brought tears to his eyes as he declared Tressel as one of the two father figures in his life.
So why does this night rank so highly for me? Well, I have been an Ohio State fan my entire life. In that room were some of the best to play at Ohio State in my lifetime. And so, to see some of OSU’s biggest stars come from all over the country to gather for one night for one man is pretty amazing. I can only hope one day the same would be done for me…but I’ve got a long way to go.
Whatever you may think about Jim Tressel, know this much. The man has had and continues to have a profound impact on people. He made his mistakes and he paid for them dearly. But his legacy lives on through each and every one of his players. And if you ever needed proof of that, you got it last night.
NOTE: If you have not seen the tributes yet, click here to watch them all.