Tressel talks memories, lessons at local fundraiser

Yaneek Smith

The vest, the best and the rest — we’re talking about Jim Tressel, former Ohio State running back and two-time Heisman Award winner Archie Griffin and Ohio State gridiron fans.
        Tressel, Griffin and a crowd of over 200 people recently attended a "Journey for All Kids" fundraiser in Fremont. Tressel, the former Ohio State coach is the current president of Youngstown State University, was the keynote speaker, and he showed why he is such a tremendous leader during his speech.
        The organization Tressel was raising money for is the Journey's Family Amusement Center. The 28,000 square foot building is one of Ohio's biggest indoor amusement centers. Journey's includes a gigantic jungle gym, huge inflatables, an arcade, party rooms, and a sports cage, among other things.
        The facility provides a place for kids to spend time after school. The fundraiser was done to help make it cheaper, if not free, for people to use Journey's. It's a two-way street, though. Journey's has donated over $70,000 in the last 11 years to local charities, groups, organizations, churches, schools and families. Tressel praised how communities fundraise to make donations like this work.
        "These Ohio communities are the best. We are blessed to grow up in an extraordinary state," said Tressel. "We also live in an extraordinary country. We just had the 75th anniversary of D-Day."
        Tressel passed along some life lessons to the crowd, many from coaching at Ohio State. He discussed in detail the 2002 team that won the national championship.
        "We had seniors like Michael Doss and Donnie Nickey talking about winning a national championship, and I thought, 'Do they really know what it takes?'"
        As history tells us, they had what it took, going 14-0 and defeating Miami (Fla.) in the NCAA Division I (now FBS) national championship game.
        Tressel cited the struggles the team had in the previous years as a reason for them wanting to win the national title. In the previous three seasons, the Buckeyes went 21-15 and saw their coach, John Cooper, get fired. Tressel cited those past failures as the reason for them being so hungry and motivated before the 2002 season.
        He also cited similar past failures leading up to the 2014 team that won the national title under coach Urban Meyer. The team had struggled in its only season under its previous coach, Luke Fickell, and, Tressel believes, those tough times motivated Ohio State to play at a high level. The Buckeyes upset Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals and then defeated Oregon in the championship game.
        "That team had struggled enough," Tressel said. "When you decide to do something that you haven't done well enough, sometimes that gives you the best chance to succeed."
        Tressel's resume speaks for itself. He won a national championship with Ohio State and finished with a 106-22 (.828) record coaching the Buckeyes. He also beat Michigan nine times. While coaching at Youngstown State from 1986-2000, Tressel led the Penguins to four Division I-AA national titles.
        In 2002, Tressel chose a book, Expanding Your Horizons, for the team to read. The book was written by Don Steinberg, a Toledo physician who was on Ohio State's 1942 national championship team.
        "Each year, we would pick a book to read as a team, and we said, 'Let's study this book.' A number of players from that '42 team were still living and we had some of them come and speak to the team. We had questions like, 'What does a national championship team look like? What does a national championship team act like?'
        “There were about 43 players on that team, and 36 enlisted in the military and fought in World War II. Can you imagine if we won the national championship and one of our players enlist in the military?
        "They became the Greatest Generation -- they dropped what they were doing and did what the country needed. The men went overseas to fight the war and the women went to work in the factories.               


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