Tressel Happy to be on Familiar Ground
By Brandon Castel
Jim Tressel didn’t set an alarm clock the morning he visited Cleveland Browns training camp. He didn’t have to. The excitement of being around the game of football for the first time in months would have been enough to wake him from the deepest of slumbers.
“It was an early wake-up in Columbus, Ohio, to get here for the morning practice, but I was excited to come and smell it and feel it and be around good people who are competing and trying to build something special,” Tressel said Wednesday during his appearance on ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland.
“You can tell the people here know this is a special place and it can become even more special as they progress.”
It was one of Tressel’s first interviews since he was forced into retirement back on May 30 after 10 seasons at the helm of the Ohio State football program. The 59-year old had dedicated his life to coaching, a profession he learned first-hand watching his father, Lee Tressel, who was a football coach and athletic director at Baldwin-Wallace College.
“Probably since I was 5-years-old I was always heading to training camp when August rolled around. I'm not five anymore. I spent a lot of years doing that,” Tressel said on WKNR.
“It's been different. That's why coming up here is fun. I had a chance to run around and see some of my guys in their NFL camps. It's been a little bit different, but I think change is healthy. Time to reflect and do some things you've never really had time to do before is a healthy thing.”
While it is not what he planned, this is Tressel’s first break from the college game since he starting playing football for his dad back in 1971. After graduating in ’74, Tressel went right into coaching as a graduate assistant at the University of Akron (which just so happens to be the same school that gave Luke Fickell his first break as an assistant coach).
After four years at Akron and two at Miami, Ohio, Tressel became the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse in 1981. Two years later he was coaching at Ohio State as an offensive assistant under Earle Bruce and the rest is history.
“I could never pay much attention to the NFL as a college coach because Sunday was a huge work day for us,” said Tressel, who attended Browns preseason camp Tuesday.
“I might find out Monday morning which of our players did something on Sunday when we'd look at the stats, but it will be fun following my Brownies a little bit closer.”
Tressel was born in Mentor, Ohio back in 1952, so the ‘Brownies’ have been his team since birth. When he was six years old, Tressel’s dad left his job as the Head Coach at Mentor to take over his alma Mater, Baldwin-Wallace.
As a result, Jim grew up just down the street from the Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio and developed a friendship with neighbor—and former Cleveland Browns great—Lou Groza.
“It being back home and being the Cleveland Browns and all that made it even more special,” Tressel said of his decision to stop by an NFL training camp.
One of the players he got to in action Tuesday was former Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie, now in his third season with the Browns.
“It was great to see Brian, had a chance to chat with him for a couple of minutes,” Tressel said on the air.
“It was good to hear from the coaches that he's that guy we know he is, dependable he'll do the best he can possibly do. You can count on him.”
Another guy Tressel got to see was Cleveland’s second-year quarterback Colt McCoy, whom Tressel coached against twice while he was at Texas. The Buckeyes got the better of McCoy when he was a youngster with the Longhorns back in 2006, but he got his revenge with a game-winning touchdown drive in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
“It was fun watching Colt,” Tressel said.
“(Mike) Holmgren talks about that position is always about timing. The longer he's been at this level where the receivers aren't quite as open as they are at Texas, they're pretty blanketed here so if you don't throw it at the right time, you're not going to have a chance. This group is becoming his. It was fun to watch that progression.”
Tressel also got the opportunity to catch up with another old nemesis, as former Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr inexplicably turned up at Browns camp on the same day.
“Great minds think along the same wavelength,” Tressel said with a laugh.
“Lloyd is one of those guys, we were together at the Big Ten meetings and those types of things and when you might need a little bit of advice and there was no one to ask that was sitting in the same type of seat, he was always a guy that was more than willing to share from that standpoint. He still wanted to whip your fanny the next time you played, but just a good person.”
Like Carr, who coached his last season at Michigan back in 2007, Tressel is now retired. Unlike Carr, however, Tressel probably wasn’t ready to give it up, despite the fact he is approaching 60 years of age.
Tressel told a reporter Tuesday that he hopes to be on the sideline again someday, but it may not really set in until he is sitting on his couch Sept. 3 watching Fickell lead the Buckeyes out of the tunnel against Akron.
“How it will feel? I don't think you can really anticipate that until you're in that moment,” he said.
That’s Tressel, always trying to stay in the moment.
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