Perched at 199 wins, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel allowed himself to think about his future for a moment when asked about his longevity.
Surprisingly, he does not plan on coaching the Buckeyes forever.
That statement might come as a shock to fans who expect Tressel to remain as an immortal coach at OSU. Now in his seventh year with the Buckeyes, it is almost easy to gloss over the 15 years he served at I-AA Youngstown State. Although four national titles and 137 victories with the Penguins are nothing to sniff at, Tressel did not arrive on the radar for most OSU fans until he became the university's 22nd head coach in 2001.
Since then, he has guided the Buckeyes to four seasons of 10 or more wins and has the 2007 squad sitting 5-0 nearly midway through the season.
While is not the coach with the longest tenure in OSU history, he is even further from being the longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten. That honor would go to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who is enjoying his 42nd season as the head man for the Nittany Lions.
By contrast, Tressel seems like a youngster fresh to the league.
"It's a different era," Tressel said.
But Tressel's 22 years in coaching might be starting to add up for the Buckeye head coach. When asked if he could fathom coaching for another 22, he replied with "probably not."
"My first 22 were probably a different time in the game than Joe's first 22," he said. "I would doubt that you guys would have me that much longer and Ohio State would have me that much longer."
Averaging 10.3 wins per season in his first six seasons, it would take Tressel until midway through his 14th season from now to become OSU's all-time leader in wins for a head coach. That record belongs to Woody Hayes, who posted 205 career victories while manning the Buckeyes.
Does that mean Tressel thinks Hayes' record will remain intact?
"I'm sure it would," he said.
His players do not seem so assured of that fact, however. When asked how long he felt Tressel would coach, sophomore defensive end Doug Worthington cited Paterno's tenure.
"How old is Joe Paterno? I believe he could go to there," he said.
Junior linebacker Marcus Freeman said he can not see Tressel ever getting out of coaching.
"I could see Coach Tressel coaching for many, many years," he said. "I really can't see him not coaching, because that's Coach Tressel and he's such a great coach and that seems like that's his life."
The question is, then: What would Tressel do if he was not coaching the Buckeyes? Freeman said he feels he would be leading groups of people to do something, whether it was on or off the football field.
That led Worthington to venture a guess.
"He could do anything he wanted to do," Worthington said. "He's a great man. He might run for mayor or president one day. He's a great man. He's a man about his morals and he's an honest man. Anything he really wanted to do, he could."