One for the thumb. That's what Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel earned Friday: a Division 1 national championship ring to add to the four Division 1-AA rings he won during his tenure as head football coach at Youngstown State University.
Maurice Clarett, whose only regret in high school was that his Warren G. Harding Raiders didn't win a state championship, now has part of a national title and enough memories to last most people a lifetime.
The freshman from Youngstown and Warren became the subject of what should have been a minor controversy early last week. But after Friday night's victory he showed class far beyond his years. During a nationally televised interview while standing on the championship platform, he was asked about one of the most important plays of the game, when he stripped the ball from Miami's Sean Taylor after Taylor intercepted a Buckeye pass in the end zone. Had the Hurricanes retained possession, they would have had the momentum.
Sharing the credit
Clarett said he was just doing what "Coach Spencer" had taught him to do. "Coach is always talking about once someone else has the ball, you've got to turn into a defender," Clarett said. OSU's coach of the running backs, Tim Spencer, could be the first member of the hard-working fraternity of assistant coaches to get that kind of national recognition from a player.
Ninety-nine players out of 100 would have talked about what they did, not what they were taught or who taught them. Clarett was bigger than that.
It is natural enough for us in the Mahoning Valley to focus on Tressel and Clarett. Did anyone keep count of how many times Youngstown was mentioned on national television Friday night, without a single unflattering reference?
But it must be said that Ohio State's victory was an inspiring example of a team effort.
Pride in the scarlet and gray flows through the state, the university, the coaches and the players in an unbroken stream. But it is only the players who leave their blood on the field -- at hundreds of practices and dozens of games. For all that, one time in a thousand a team like The Ohio State University Buckeyes can walk off the field knowing, without a doubt, that they are the best.