Fickell, Buckeyes Happy to See Coach Tressel Honored
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was a moment on Saturday when Luke Fickell had to be reminded where he was, and more importantly, what year it was.
Ohio State’s defensive coordinator was in the heat of battle, coaching his first game against the hated Wolverines under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, but when he looked up between the first and second quarter of the game, Fickell could hardly believe his eyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Standing at the goal line of the north end zone, amidst a sea of former Buckeyes, stood the man who had given him his start at Ohio State as a special teams coach 10 years earlier.
“I didn’t even know they were having a reunion,” Fickell said of the 2002 national championship team.
“But when I looked out there and saw them lift up coach Tress, there was something in my stomach that felt really, really good.”
A lifelong Buckeye who played under Jim Heacock as a nose guard in the mid 1990s, Fickell was a part of that undefeated 2002 team, which won the BCS National Championship with a 31-24 overtime victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Fiesta Bowl.
He spent nine seasons as a part of coach Tressel’s staff in Columbus, and it was Fickell who was charged with the nearly impossible task of replacing the legendary head coach when he was forced to resign last May.
While the Buckeyes are two seasons removed from Tressel’s last game as a head coach – three if you count the fact the NCAA has since vacated the 2010 season – it was still a special day for many of his former players.
“I just think it’s a blessing to have Coach Meyer and Coach Tressel be there on my Senior Day,” fifth-year safety Orhian Johnson said during the week leading up to ‘The Game.’
“I couldn’t really have it any other way. Having those 2002 guys coming out there on the field, I think it’ll be a real blessing for me.”
All of the seniors who hugged Urban Meyer on Senior Day were originally recruited to Ohio State by Tressel and his staff. Just having him there at Ohio Stadium was a special moment, but it took things to another level when they saw the players from the 2002 team put their former head coach up on their shoulders as the crowd cheered wildly.
“I saw it and I wish I could have been a part of it,” senior defensive end Nathan Williams said with a smile.
“I wanted to run over there and help them lift up coach Tress.”
The 2012 Buckeyes, Ohio State’s first undefeated team since that 2002 team set a school record with a 14-0 season, were trying to cap off their perfect season with a win against Michigan.
It was a tightly contested first half, and ultimately a closer game than many were hoping for, but that moment in the first half with Coach Tressel is one these Buckeyes will not soon forget.
“That was awesome,” senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner said.
“I kind of teared up a little bit. That’s who I came here to play for. He’s a legend.”
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