Jim Tressel talks to you, not at you.
I've met him twice now, and I'm still not sure how he does it.
Two years ago, when the Ohio Athletic Conference was holding its media day at the Horseshoe in Columbus, Tressel stopped by at the end. I went over to him, waited for everyone else to take their pictures, and waited to introduce myself.
I never had the chance.
"Hi, Zach," Tressel said.
I was startled. I'd asked him a question on a conference call when I was a student-journalist at Bowling Green, but he couldn't possibly remember that.
Then I looked down and remembered I had my name tag on.
How Tressel was able to look a name tag and process it in a heartbeat, I'll never know. When he did it again Thursday at the SIEDC banquet in Tiffin, I again was surprised. He never once looked down. Never failed to make eye contact.
When fellow sports writer Tony Maluso and I had a few minutes to interview Tressel, the former Ohio State coach didn't once give an indication he'd rather be somewhere else.
All I wanted to ask him about was his interview for the Colts head coaching job last month, and if he'd seriously considered going to the NFL.
Tressel told me he'd met with the Colts for six hours, and did that just to re-affirm his belief he did not want to be a pro coach. He
stressed the people in the Colts' organization were great (Tressel had a game-day role with the Colts last year), but in the end, he'd rather work in college, which is what he will do in Akron.
By May of last year, I figured there would be no other ending than Tressel resigning from Ohio State. The logical next step in his career, it seemed, was the NFL.
And while the track record of college coaches going to the NFL isn't great (for every Jimmy Johnson there are six Butch Davises), I believed it would have at the very least been interesting if he had gotten the Colts job.
With Tressel's commitment to organization and game-planning, I tend to believe he would have been a strong pro coach. Of course, his hiring and his minicamps and his work with Andrew Luck could have been enough material to fill our pages all summer.
But it would have been weird to see the blue vest.
It's hard to go to these events and remain objective. My feelings on the coach and his dismissal are mixed. What the Ohio State scandal did was torpedo any faith I had in big-time college sports. If a guy as genuine as Tressel always seems to be could get into trouble, what hope is there?
But standing there and talking to the coach, and then watching him talk to others, I lost my skepticism., if only for a moment.
The last thing I said to him probably made me sound less like a writer and more like a sports fan.
"If you ever get the NFL itch, could you please rescue the Browns?"
He laughed. I guess he thought I was joking.
This time, it was me who was being genuine.