Rossford football coach Todd Drusback has long admired Jim Tressel.
This season, as usual, he will give his players a 30-plus page packet titled the Bulldogs Winner’s Manual, a how-to guide modeled after the book written by the former Ohio State coach. His thoughts on Tressel have never budged, through triumph and ultimately scandal.
“Most people remember coach Tressel by his loyalty with his players,” Drusback said. “As a coach, myself, the biggest thing is you want to be there for your kids and your players. They know they have your back, and you have theirs. That’s one of the attributes of coach Tressel, and I think in the end, that’s what he was doing.
“I have a lot of respect for him.”
Recently, though, he learned the feeling was mutual. Tressel will be the keynote speaker July 19 at the sixth Annual Parker’s Purpose Dinner Auction, calling the cause led by Drusback “amazing.”
A fund-raising campaign that began in 2008 to help the family of Fremont’s Parker Inks, who has muscular dystrophy, has since raised nearly $100,000 for families of ill and disabled children in immediate financial need. All proceeds from next Friday’s dinner at Ole Zim's Wagon Shed between Gibsonburg and Fremont will go to Parker’s Purpose.
Drusback and Parker recently visited Tressel at the University of Akron, where the ex-coach is now an administrator. Tressel gave Parker a Zips cap and told him he looks forward to his visit to northwest Ohio, an area he calls a “special place for me.” His parents grew up in Ada, about 70 miles south of Toledo, while his brother, Dick, was Gibsonburg’s football coach from 1971 to 1973.
“The coaches in the state of Ohio have always been special to me,” Tressel said in a phone interview. “You hear of the great things they’re a part of outside of their games, and you hear their passion. And Todd’s got a great passion.”
For Tressel, who spent 10 seasons leading Ohio State, his speech marks the latest stop in a whirlwind second act.
After resigning under pressure in the face of major NCAA violations before the 2011 season, Tressel was blistered by the national media as another symbol of what is wrong with big-time college sports. He admitted to lying to NCAA investigators — and failing to alert his superiors — about his knowledge of OSU players receiving improper benefits from a Columbus tattoo parlor.
Yet in his home state, to Ohio State supporters and those who felt they knew the values for which he stood, Tressel remains largely revered.
Evidence the stadium-shaking roar when his old players hoisted Tressel atop their shoulders during a tribute to the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship team at last year’s Michigan game. Or the tickets to this year’s Parker’s Purpose event selling like never before. Or the hundreds of events Tressel said he has been asked to attend in the past year.
Today, the 60-year-old Tressel balances two jobs, one official as vice president of strategic engagement at Akron and another as state ambassador.
“I’m not sure I’ve been busier in my life, with a new career and still staying connected with 38 years worth of a former career,” Tressel said.
He added: “Whenever I can help, as long as my schedule permits, and my new responsibilities allow, I’m excited to do it.”
Presale tickets to the dinner are $50 and available only to those 21 and older. For more information, visit www.parkerspurpose.com.
Contact David Briggs at:
419-724-6084 or on
Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.