This weekend Ohio State honors one of the greatest Buckeyes of all time, Bill Willis, by retiring his No. 99. Head coach Jim Tressel is hopeful the act will help foster fans' learning about the All-American lineman and Columbus native.
"It's a special day for the Ohio State fans to be able to recognize Bill Willis, who we always say may have been the finest player to ever play here," Tressel said, citing Willis' status as a member of the halls of fame of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Ohio State Varsity ‘O', college football and the NFL.
"But he was to football what Jackie Robinson was to baseball and did it before Jackie Robinson," Tressel added, referencing Willis' joining the Cleveland Browns in 1946, a move that re-integrated professional football prior to Robinson's doing the same for Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following year.
"I'm not sure that we've talked enough about Bill Willis, so to add the honor of retiring his jersey I think is special," Tressel said. "Maybe (fans will) get a deeper understanding of just what he was all about and what he meant to the game, and obviously how proud we are that it was our guy that blazed those trails, so absolutely you hope people come up and want to find out more about who that Bill Willis really was."
Events such as Willis' jersey retirement serve to show that there is more about game day at Ohio State than just a win or a loss, a fact Tressel said he hopes will be impressed upon a star-studded group of recruits visiting this weekend.
"They're going to see the band. They're going to see the ushers. They're going to see the recognition of Bill Willis. They're going to see the tailgaters. They're going to see the mobs of photographers along the sidelines or whatever it happens to be. That's what we want them to see," Tressel said. "We want them to feel the energy of our campus, and we want them to get to know who we are as much as they can, and spend as much time as they can around our players."
"Late in the year lots of practice reps really aren't as important as they are early because you've had lots of game reps, so I don't know how many practice reps you have to have to be ready to compete in a game," Tressel said. "I'm sure he won't have a full week of practice reps, just like (Ohio State tailback Chris Wells) won't, but he'll be ready."
As for the health of his own team, Tressel said defensive tackle Todd Denlinger should be ready to go while Robert Rose will remain limited by an unidentified injury that kept him out of most of the previous game.