“I wouldn’t think of calling him Jimmy,” Rolle said with a laugh.
Offensive lineman Bryant Browning remembers the times Tressel has been out of his straight-laced character.
“He dances in the locker room from time to time,” he said. “It was kind of a, well, a smooth, little rock to the beat, I guess.”
He added, “He’s no Michael Jackson.”
Ohio State’s cornerbacks coach, Taver Johnson, said what makes Tressel so appealing is that you know what you’re getting.
“For sure in the four years I’ve been here, he’s the same,” he said. “That part of it always makes you as an assistant coach feel that you can get your job done. Because he’s not an overbearing person, not all over the board, not an overseer. He expects you to get your job done. He doesn’t have to give you a checklist.”
The game and the kids aren’t quite the same as they were when Tressel graduated from Baldwin-Wallace in 1975 and set off to make a name for himself as a coach.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that this will be my 36th year of college coaching,” Tressel said before the current season kicked off. “I don’t even feel as if I’m 36, but football’s changed in some ways, but in other ways it hasn’t. I think the kids are very similar to what I’ve known. Maybe today they want to know a little bit more why because they’re a little bit more educated. They know more about the game. So they want to know why we’re running this coverage or why we’re running this pass protection or whatever. But really they want to know: What do you expect of me? And they want to know how they’re doing.”
Tressel is 99-21 at Ohio State, and 234-78-2 overall, with a winning percentage that ranks among the best of anyone to ever coach at the college level. He recruits great players, although at first glance he doesn’t appear to be a guy who can relate well to 18-year-olds.
But he is clearly more than a micromanager who speaks in circuitous “Tresselese,” more than the “Senator” as he’s derisively called for his ultra-cautious behavior and language.
“There’s a lot of coaches out there who are just used-car salesmen,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “They’re just trying to sell a product or something. With Tress, he’s just a guy of his word and he really cares about his kids.”
Last spring, Tressel signed a two-year contract extension that will pay him roughly $3.6 million a year through the 2014 season.
He enjoys coaching, but no one knows for certain how long he’ll continue at Ohio State. Like much of his personal life, that’s something he never reveals.
“You know what, if I knew that and you knew that, we’d both be in good shape,” he said. “I’m going to be around as long as I can. How’s that?”
By Elaine Donnelly
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