Many Ohio State fans might not recognize the name of Arden “Stretch” Roberson , but he played a role in something that might have changed the course of OSU football history.
Roberson, an Ohio Northern University icon who died last Saturday at 89, graduated from Ada High School with Jim Tressel’s parents, Lee and Eloise Tressel, in 1943.
Roberson – who was Ohio Northern’s football coach from 1960-1969 – was an assistant coach with Lee Tressel in high school and college and was a lifelong friend of the Tressel family.
Lee Tressel became a football standout at Ada, but it took some persuasion to get his father, Lee Tressel Sr., to agree to let him play.
The Tressels lived on a farm outside Ada and the elder Tressel was reluctant to allow his son to play football because he thought it would take away from his farm work.
Ada’s football coach at the time, Phil Shipe, knew Lee Tressel was a good athlete, so he turned on the charm.
Roberson remembered being there when the campaign began when he and I talked for a story I wrote in 2002.
“I’m the one who took the coach out there. He asked me if I knew where the Tressels lived,” Roberson said. “We got out there and Lee’s dad was digging a cistern. I introduced him and Lee’s dad didn’t even stop digging.
“I remember Shipe said something and he said, ‘Well, if the boy needs exercise, there’s plenty of it here for him on the farm,’ ” Roberson said. “But he finally gave in and let him play.”
In the end, it was Lee Tressel’s mom, Cora, agreeing to do some of her son’s chores that sealed the deal. But Roberson was part of the story that eventually brought Jim Tressel to Ohio State.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.