Several hundred fans got a sneak preview of the 2008 Ohio State football team – and helped raise money for the Alzheimer's Association – at the 17th annual Spring Preview luncheon.
Buckeye coaches and players previewed the season during the event, held at the Les Wexner Football Complex at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility. Also in attendance were members of the 1973 Rose Bowl champion Buckeyes and guest speaker Frank Broyles, former head football coach and athletic director at the University of Arkansas.
The luncheon serves as the unofficial start to the spring football season, even though OSU head coach Jim Tressel had already led his Buckeyes through four practices. Tressel said he has been working on getting his team ready for another run at a Big Ten title and another chance at the BCS national championship. Tressel spoke of watching a message from John Madden at one of the team's practices before Wednesday's event and what his team could learn from it.
"John Madden was talking about what was the key to sustaining excellence and making sure that you can continue and go beyond what you've accomplished," Tressel said. "His message was really pretty simple. He said you can't assume that you're going to go right on from the end of the last season. It's just not going to happen that way. In fact, you better remind yourself to go back to the start of the last season because if you think you're going to from the end of the last season, you're mistaken."
Several of the current Buckeyes in attendance took that lesson to heart. Quarterback Todd Boeckman said he and his teammates have been working towards getting ready for the 2008 season since winter.
"We've been doing some great things together coming off last fall," Boeckman said. "We didn't finish the season the way we wanted to and we're starting over again this winter."
Assistant coaches Taver Johnson, Luke Fickell, Doc Tressel and John Peterson each took turns speaking of OSU's different units, and several players – including linebacker James Laurinaitis, kicker Ryan Pretorius and Boeckman – gave their thoughts on where the Buckeyes stand.
The '73 Buckeyes were honored during the luncheon. OSU historian Jack Park gave a presentation on the Buckeyes, who are celebrating their 35th anniversary of their Rose Bowl title. The Buckeyes finished the season 10-0-1 and won a controversial vote of Big Ten athletic directors in order to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State went on to defeat Southern Cal, 42-21, in Pasadena.
"Coach (Woody) Hayes said the finest people you're ever going to meet were in that (lockerroom), and he was right," offensive tackle John Hicks said of his teammates. "That team could produced some of the greatest people that I've ever been involved with. The charity, the closeness, the caring only came from a team that was not only dedicated to themselves but was dedicated to life. We're being honored today not only for the achievement of winning the Rose Bowl, but we're being honored today for being great people."
Broyles spoke on behalf of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. The former coach is the author of "Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers" and took care of his wife, Barbara, during her four-year battle with the disease.
"My wife died a few years ago of Alzheimer's and I wanted to do something to help the caregivers," Broyles said. "I was a caregiver with no information whatsoever. I made up my mind that I was going to do something to help."
The Broyles were married 59 years and battled the disease for four years before Barbara passed away in 2004.
"The greatest gift you can give a loved one is to take care of them," Broyles said. "The fact that I had four years to be with her – that precious time, I wouldn't trade for anything."
There was also a silent auction and a live auction to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association. The most money raised in the live auction was for a pair of USC tickets with airfare and hotel accommodations. That package went for $3,800.
The event also had some humorous moments. For the second straight year, Johnson earned some ribbing by Tressel. Johnson, then a first-year coach, had forgotten some of names of the defensive players. Johnson had a sheet this season to help him remember names, but forgot to mention some of his fellow defensive coaches.
"Are there any other coaches that help you out with the coaching defense?," Tressel asked.
"Yes," Johnson said.
"I didn't know if you did it alone over there," Tressel said.
Responded Johnson: "I'll put that on my sheet for next time."
Tressel also got in a thinly-veiled shot at new Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez. Purdue head coach Joe Tiller had accused Rodriguez of violating a gentleman's agreement between Big Ten coaches when the latter got receiver Roy Roundtree, a Purdue oral commit, to renege on his decision and sign a national letter of intent to play at Michigan. Tressel was asked if the "gentleman's agreement" actually existed.
"I guess only between the gentlemen," Tressel responded.