Jim Tressel has mostly laid low since he was forced to retire from his position as Ohio State head football coach May 30, so his surprise appearance at the training camp of the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 16 caused a bit of a stir.
He acknowledged in an interview with Cleveland radio station WKNR that life has been a lot different since alleged ethical violations cost him his job earlier this year.
“Probably since I was 5-years-old I was always heading to training camp when August rolled around. I'm not 5 anymore. I spent a lot of years doing that,” he told the station. “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. I could never pay much attention to the NFL as a college coach because Sunday was a huge work day for us. 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."
The trip back to Berea, the site of the Browns’ training camp and the northeastern Ohio town in which Tressel was raised and played his college football for his father at Baldwin-Wallace, marked the 59-year-old Tressel’s first appearance in a football setting since his coaching career came to an abrupt halt.
"It being back home and being the Cleveland Browns and all that made it even more special,” said Tressel, who has never hidden his affinity for the Browns. “I didn't even have to wait for the alarm clock this morning. 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.
“You can tell the people here know this is a special place and it can become even more special as they progress."
The 59-year-old remains uncertain about what he will do long term but said he hopes to see some games this year involving former players and coaches who served on his staffs.
He’s not sure yet how it will feel when Sept. 3 rolls around and he is not on the sideline coaching the Buckeyes or any other team for the first time since he started as a graduate assistant at Akron in 1975.
“How it will feel? I don't think you can really anticipate that until you're in that moment,” he said.
To add to the mini spectacle, Tressel was joined at Browns practice by former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, who retired after the 2007 season. Neither was aware the other would be in attendance, but they were happy for the chance to catch up.
"Great minds think along the same wavelength,” Tressel said with a laugh. “Lloyd's a great guy and highly competitive and did a wonderful job.
"One thing about it - sometimes your toughest competitors are the people you respect the most and are the most comfortable with. 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."
While he was in town, Tressel also took the chance to catch up with another former competitor: second-year Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. The former Texas Longhorn split a pair of games against Tressel’s Ohio State teams, losing the second game of the 2006 season and winning the Fiesta Bowl after the 2008 campaign.
“It was fun watching Colt,” Tressel said. “(Browns team president 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 talked to former Buckeye Brian Robiskie, a third-year Cleveland wide receiver.
“It was great to see Brian, had a chance to chat with him for a couple of minutes,” Tressel said. “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.”
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