- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Jim Tressel grew up watching Bob Hope's USO shows and remembers Woody Hayes visiting troops in Vietnam.
But possibly the biggest reason why Tressel accepted an invitation to visit troops in the Middle East late this spring hits a little closer to home. The Ohio State head coach will join colleagues Mack Brown, Rick Neuheisel, Houston Nutt and Tommy Tuberville for a week-long trip on the Under Armour Coaches Tour.
"I recall vividly, as I learned more and more about my dad," Tressel said, "that serving his country came first to him, even more than his football playing and wanting to live a civilian life."
In 1943, Lee Tressel enrolled at Ohio State and went through a successful spring practice as a back. Coaching legend Paul Brown had recruited Tressel to the Buckeyes.
"He had a real good spring game," Jim Tressel said. "I think he threw a touchdown to [1944 Heisman Trophy winner] Les Horvath and Les Horvath threw one to him or he ran one or something like that.
"Then he made the decision that despite that thrill and lifelong dream of playing at Ohio State, he thought that he needed to serve his country, just like so many of the kids did at that time."
Lee served in the Navy in the South Pacific and then returned to Baldwin-Wallace, where he starred as a fullback and later coached for 23 seasons.
The younger Tressel shares his father's admiration for those serving in the military and looks forward to interacting with troops in Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates during the trip, which takes place May 28-June 4. Numerous military personnel have visited Ohio State in recent years, and a display case filled with pictures, flags, battalion coins and Buckeyes memorabilia sits in the football offices.
Tressel had been invited to join last year's tour but declined so he could attend his daughter's college graduation. When tour organizer Mike Whalen asked again, Tressel didn't hesitate.
"It's a tremendous honor," Tressel said. "When the Ohio State coach is there, the Texas coach is there, the UCLA coach is there, that's like bringing home right into their tents or wherever they stay. It will just be a sense of warmth for them, and they'll see from us that we believe they're the ones people should take note of. They're the ones doing the tough duty.
"What we do over here is a lot of fun, and I'm sure people recognize Ohio State football and all of that, but it's not as recognizable as that flag with the stars and stripes."