Tressel's Spirit Carries On at Senior Day

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Last updated: 11/19/2011 10:16 AM

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Jim Tressel’s Spirit Carries on at Ohio State Senior Day
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This is not what Michael Brewster imagined when he pictured his final game in Ohio Stadium.

Not this 6-and-4 football team, and certainly not the upheaval that has surrounded Ohio State’s football program for the last year. 

Senior Day is supposed to be a celebration for Brewster and his classmates; the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication, of blood, sweat and, yes, tears; more tears than these kids ever expected.

It is the day where an entire stadium honors a group of young men playing their last home game in front of 105,000 of their closest friends and biggest fans.

When Brewster walks down that ramp for the last time today before Ohio State’s home finale against Penn State, there will plenty of emotion: the emotion of a career coming to a close, the emotion of the next step in life and the emotion of walking out to onto the field at the Horseshoe for the last time.

His parents will be there, and so will the teammates who have stuck together through some of the toughest times in their lives. At least that part will be just as Brewster pictured it, but it won’t be the same without that 5-8 man waiting for him with a hug and a handshake at midfield.

“He was such a big part of this team and these coaches and all of our lives, even our parents,” Brewster said of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

“We miss him in a lot of ways because he was one of the best coaches to ever coach here and in the Big Ten.”

Tressel will not be inside Ohio Stadium for Senior Day. He lost that right when he violated NCAA rules—although the Colts do have a bye this week, and technically nothing precludes him from purchasing a ticket and walking in as a fan (could you imagine getting to your seats only to find Jim and Ellen are sitting in them by accident?).

But that is not Tressel, because that would take away from the importance of what is going on down on the field. While he won’t be there in person, every senior carries his spirit with them as they walk on to the field today.

“He’s always in the back of my mind,” said Brewster, who became close with Tressel even during his days as a recruit.

“It’ll be different, but I know in spirit he will be there and I know he’ll be watching.”

In many ways, Jim Tressel’s spirit is Senior Day. It is in the pageantry and the very fabric of tradition on game days at Ohio State. It floats through the stadium on the clanging of cymbals, the banging of drums and the blaring of trumpets.

“He started the singing of Carmen Ohio at the end of the games,” said Charlie King, a senior trumpet player from Dublin, Ohio.

“That was his thing. He brought the team into Skull Session. He really liked all that. He would come and talk to us at our summer sessions just about every year and say, ‘it really means a lot to our players and to me.’”

With the chimes flowing from the Orton Hall bell tower, thousands of fans will gather together around the stadium after a victory to sing their alma mater with the football team.

As the players huddle together in the south end zone with their arms around each other, Tressel could always be found right in the center singing Ohio’s praise and swaying to the tunes of The Ohio State University Marching Band.

“We’ve had a good lineage of coaches and all of them have been supportive of the band. When I came in 1974, Woody Hayes was the coach,” said Dr. Jon Woods, who is retiring at the end of this season after 38 years with the band.  

“And Tressel, gosh, he’s probably one of the most supportive or vocal in his praise and working with the band.”

One of the first things Tressel did when took the job at Ohio State back in 2001 was to contact the Marching Band about a new entrance for his players on game day.

“He called us up and he came over and said he’d like to start some new traditions,” said Woods, who has been the Director since 1984.

“The first one is that tunnel, ‘I’m going to have that enclosed; the ramp where the team comes down, I’m going to have that covered and I want the team to come down that tunnel. People can’t see them and I want you to form a tunnel of pride, so to speak. When the team comes down, they’ll come running out on the field while we play the fight song’.”

Legend has it that Tressel even had a dream that the players would run on to the field through the middle of a ‘Block-O’ formation of band members that would part in the middle.

“So John Waters and Jon Woods wrote out this ‘Block-O’ thing and we practiced it and Jim Tressel actually came to one of our rehearsals in the morning and we marched it for him,” said King, a computer information science major. 

“He was like, ‘that’s exactly what I wanted.’”

Not just because he got what he wanted. Talk to anyone around the Joan Zieg Steinbrenner Band Center—which is located inside Ohio Stadium—and the love and admiration from everyone, including the directors, is unmistakable.  

“He also came personally just to see us do the ramp entrance and the practice because he never gets to see it because he’s in the locker room,” King said.

“My first year, he came and we specifically put on a show at practice for him because he wanted to see it. Obviously he was a huge advocate for the band. He really loved the band.”

He loved it all, most especially those 24 seniors who will undoubtedly be thinking about him as they walk out to meet Luke Fickell today.

“He was a big part of my life for six or seven years,” Brewster said.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll meet up with him again some day at the next level.”


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