Tressel met the group at his front doorstep in Upper Arlington, posing for pictures and thanking each of the fans who came by. He also addressed the crowd – which arrived around 6:40 p.m. and stayed for more than half an hour – briefly.
"We're going to be Buckeyes for life," said Tressel, who was accompanied by wife Ellen. "What's that old saying, 'Buckeye born and bred, I'll be a Buckeye ‘til I'm dead.' "
After the crowd started to sing "We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan," Tressel replied with a guarantee that sounded similar to the one he delivered at his hiring 10 years prior.
"Don't forget," the coach said, "Nov. 26 we're going to kick their ass."
That sent the crowd into a frenzy before it slowly started to dissipate as Tressel, clad in a scarlet Ohio State polo shirt, met individually with each person. The crowd also sang school alma mater "Carmen Ohio" and chanted phrases like "Thank You, Jim" and "We Love Tress."
"He was so gracious," said OSU junior Andrew Beckman of Minster, Ohio. "This is a Saturday night. You'd figure he would want to go out and maybe have dinner with Ellen, but he was gracious enough to stay home. As you can see, he's staying outside and he's going to shake every last person's hand. He's going to make sure everything gets signed. What more can you ask from the guy?"
One group of fans wore shirts that had Tressel's Ohio State record – 106-22-0 – and the phrase "Never forgotten." Many brought dogs while one youngster rode a tricycle in Tressel's driveway. Another fan had a shirt that said "Tressel for President" while others wore Buckeye necklaces or Tressel's iconic sweater vest; one carried a Tressel bobblehead.
One fan brought a sign that said "You're in our prayers" while a group of about 10 fans sat at the corner of McCoy and Windermere Roads that said "We support you Jim." Those fans joined the group as it walked from Lane Road Park in Upper Arlington to Tressel's residence.
The event was organized by two Ohio State students, sophomore Tawni Shaffer of Bryan, Ohio, and senior Andy Haviland of Worthington, Ohio. Approximately 150 people gathered at the park to start the march and others joined along during the walk while passersby waved or honked car horns.
"He really appreciated everyone coming out," Haviland said. "He was real generous with pictures. He probably had 100 pictures taken with him. It was a really great success."
The two decided to create the event after seeing some OSU students advocating jumping in Mirror Lake in support of the coach, who resigned Monday for his part in a scandal in which he covered up NCAA rules violations committed by his players.
"We were both looking at the Mirror Lake jump and we were like, ‘I don't think we should do this,' Shaffer said. "There were so many problems. Even the jump for Michigan is a risk. We really wanted to keep students safe and agree with the university on something. We decided to do this and it was safe and he could actually see it himself rather than just hearing about it."
"If you jump in for every news story, it kind of loses its luster a little bit," Haviland added.
Shaffer and Haviland led the walk while local police worked crowd control to make sure the throng didn't spill into the streets, disrupt traffic or make a mess on Tressel's lawn.
More than 1,000 people had agreed to attend on Facebook, but many were out-of-towners merely pledging their support for the cause. Haviland and Shaffer were still pleased with the turnout.
"It's amazing," Shaffer said. "The people were very polite and he seemed so happy. I'm really glad that we made his day."
Assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will take over for OSU in 2011, but many at the event said Tressel personified Ohio State football.
"You just have to look back at his record and what he did for the university," Beckman said. "A lot of people who are fans point to his career record, but I think a lot of what's gone overlooked by the media is how he impacted people off the football field. It's a shame to see him go, to say the least."