Tressel Told Buckeyes to ‘Play in the Moment’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For a moment, Michael Brewster closed his eyes and everything was good again.
Ohio State was preparing for another big, season-ending win over Michigan and Jim Tressel was talking to the team about staying in the moment and playing for each other.
It was something Brewster had become used to during his four years in Columbus. The sound of Tressel’s voice was somehow both soothing and inspiring. It returned the Buckeyes to better days, if only for a moment.
“He said the same stuff he always says. He didn't skip a beat,” Brewster said.
“It was like you blinked and it was like 'man, is everything a nightmare' because it seemed like he's still here.”
Everything has become a nightmare, an all-too-real one for Brewster and the Buckeyes this season. They lost five of their first 11 games heading into Michigan week and interim head coach Luke Fickell knew he was going to need something extra if Ohio State was going to pull off the victory in Ann Arbor.
He did the best thing he knew how, turning it over to the man who taught everyone how to beat the Wolverines.
“He came in and spoke to us and did a great job and got us fired up,” defensive tackle John Simon said of Tressel, who spoke to the team in Columbus before they left.
“It meant a lot. He told us to play the game in the moment.”
Staying in the moment has been incredibly difficult for this team and these players in 2011. After three-straight Big Ten championships and back-to-back BCS Bowl game victories, Ohio State has fallen hard from its perch a top the Big Ten Conference.
Since Tressel’s forced resignation back in May, these Buckeyes have had to endure five months of hardship without the man they entrusted to lead them through this stage of their lives.
It was an emotional reunion for the players to see and hear from their beloved former head coach before boarding the buses for Ann Arbor.
“I had tears, for sure,” Brewster said.
“It was emotional for some guys, myself included. It stinks when you feel like you got robbed a year of your life with him.”
Tressel resigned amidst a cloud of NCAA sanctions resulting from his decision to sit on information pertaining to potential violations committed by at least two of his players—Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey. Those players, along with Boom Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas, were eventually suspended by the NCAA for selling Ohio State memorabilia to the owner of a local tattoo parlor.
Tressel has been largely vilified for his role in the scandal, which eventually led to his own departure along with that of Pryor, but there is no question how the players at Ohio State feel about their former head coach.
“There was so much love,” Brewster said.
“Coach Tress is someone I have so much love for. He's an unbelievable coach and unbelievable human being. To see him again, to hear a few words, it was emotional for a lot of guys. I'd love to meet up with him again.”
Many of Ohio State’s players wore the initials J.T. on their wristbands as reminder of who they were playing for on Saturday.
“The night before the game I was thinking, ‘Why am I playing this game,’” said senior defensive back Tyler Moeller.
“Who am I playing for?”
Tressel’s speech wasn’t enough to lift this team to victory in a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle with the Wolverines. It certainly gave them the drive to keep fighting despite the fact the Buckeyes were banged up on the defensive side of the ball.
“He got us fired up,” Simon said after Ohio State’s 40-34 loss on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with a win today. It still meant a lot. He said we have to live in the moment, play the game in the moment and I think we did that today.”
The Buckeyes also wore the initials L.F. on their wristbands for the current head coach, who has led this team through some tumultuous times over the past five months.
“He still means a lot to this University,” Simon said of Tressel.
“But Coach Fickell is our coach and he means a great deal to this University also, and we are behind him 100-percent.”
They may be, but it appears their University cannot say the same.
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