Former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel remains friend, mentor to Coach Freeman

NOW: Former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel remains friend, mentor to Coach Freeman

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- As a first year Head Coach Marcus Freeman has established his own philosophy by drawing on the experience and advice of others around him including his former coach College Football Hall of Famer Jim Tressel. The two have been close friends throughout Freeman's playing career at Ohio state and now coaching career.

"He's what I aspire to be as a head coach," Coach Freeman said.

"He just needed coached and loved and appreciated and valued," Coach Tressel said.

In 2002, then Coach Tressel led the Buckeyes to the National Championship.

Freeman was a junior at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio at the time.

When the Buckeyes started recruiting Freeman it wasn't a hard sell.

"I really didn't have much of an option, you know. Being an hour from Columbus, Ohio, when I got a scholarship offer to Ohio State, I knew where I was going to go," Freeman said.

Freeman arrived at Ohio State in January of 2004 as an early enrollee and quickly grabbed the attention of his head coach.

"He was blessed in a lot of ways, great parents, and so great habits, great discipline. But physically, he was blessed. He was always trying to find a way to be what you hoped he'd be. To meet your expectations, to warrant that confidence you had in him and whether it was his personal behavior, or it was his willingness to study the game," Tressel said.

Freeman became a 2-time second team All-Big Ten linebacker for the Buckeyes who was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

But his professional career was cut short by injuries and an enlarged heart.

"I'm a man of faith. And it was almost like, God was saying, Okay, no more football here. This is the direction I'm leading you to. And so the first call I made was Coach Tressel," Freeman said. "And I said, 'Coach,' I said, 'I can't play anymore. You know, I want to be a GA.' And he said, 'Show up tomorrow at 6 a.m. and we'll talk.' And, so that was the start of it."

In 2010 Freeman began his coaching career as a Graduate Assistant at his alma mater.

"Very quickly, you learned you get your satisfaction and you really get your inspiration by seeing young people succeed. And it's not as much as the x's and o's and the game of football as much as you see young people have success. And that's for me why I do it. I love to see the young guys have success. I'm an ultimate competitor. I love to win," Freeman said.

Freeman's career skyrocketed from there.

In 2020, he won Defensive Coordinator of the Year at Cincinnati. As his stock continued to rise he always checked in with Tressel

"It was always fun to chat with him about, you know, is this a good move, you think this and so forth. And then when he gets to Notre Dame, and all of a sudden, it's like, boom, boom, boom," Tressel said. "One of the things I always loved about him. He's not shy to ask questions. I mean, he's doesn't pretend to know the answer to everything. And even if he thinks he has the answer, he wants to run it by, you know, see if maybe he's not thinking of something."

While Tressel is only a phone call away, he has always let his actions speak louder than any actual words of advice.

"Every person in our program, everybody is treated with respect because their job is important. Their role is just as important as mine to making sure we have success. So, that's ultimately what I learned from Coach Tressel is you treat people the right way, and I still lean on him today, and I talked to him probably two days ago," Freeman said. "He is a mentor for me. Somebody I throw ideas off of, and he never gives me a clearance. He always helps guide me to the answer I'm looking for, so that's what I hope I can be for the players I coach. If I can be a Jim Tressel, I think I'll look at my career as a success."

Tressel said he hasn't been back to Ohio State in nearly a decade and he was sort of hoping he would have Youngstown State obligations on Saturday.

But with his 2002 National Championship team being honored at half-time he accepted the invitation and says he will be there.

But it will be nerve wracking for him to watch the game because of all of his personal connections.

Coach Freeman said he told Tressel that he better wear some Notre Dame green under his Ohio State gear and that he's going to check him pregame.

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