Wisdom shared at Baron Club Dinner

BARON CLUB — Among those taking part in Thursday’s Baron Club Dinner at the Franciscan University of Steubenville were, from left, Jim Tressel; Mike Tomczak; Ryan Shazier; the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, university president; Maurice Claret; and Simon Arias. -- Ross Gallabrese

STEUBENVILLE — Jim Tressel is happy to talk about the importance athletics can have on a person’s life.

“I believe in what being a part of a team prepares you to do later in life,” Tressel, the former football coach and now president at Youngstown State University said prior to the start of Thursday night’s 54th-annual Baron Club Dinner at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“The discipline, the rigor, the taking your lumps — all of those things,” he added. “The lessons learned in athletics — I think it’s harder to learn any better lessons anywhere.”

Tressel, who was the head football coach at Youngstown State and Ohio State, would serve as moderator for a panel discussion that included former Buckeyes Maurice Claret, Ryan Shazier and Mike Tomczak, as well as businessman Simon Arias.

Father Terrence Henry Baron Club Awards were presented to Bob Kramer and Jerry France.

Kramer directed the Weirton Madonna football team to 110-35 record, one West Virginia Class A title and two second-place finishes while coaching from 1998-2010. France, a graduate of Catholic Central High School, was the head baseball coach at Ohio University for 16 years, winning Mid-American Conference titles in 1983 and 1984. More than 20 players he coached would be drafted or signed to professional baseball contracts.

The Kuzma Community Award was presented to Lou and the late Beth Holtz in recognition of their exemplary service to the university and the local community.

The fundraising dinner in the Finnegan Fieldhouse helps to support the school’s Division III athletic program. It also offers a chance to recognize the role the school’s Christ-centered approach to athletics has on its student-athletes, the community and society.

Division III athletics can teach valuable lessons, Arias said before the dinner.

“It’s a blessing to be able to play at that level and do what you love and get an education,” he said. “But it can sometimes be a blessing in disguise — some of the things that Division I schools get, the Division II and Division III schools don’t always get. It teaches you to grind a little bit more, to go a little bit harder because you have to work a little harder.

“In business, if I see some players who played Division II or Division III sports, I know they probably had to put in some extra work,” he added. “Maybe they didn’t get the exact same resources, but they are used to working a little bit harder to get what they want to get out of life.”

Shazier, who became an All-Pro linebacker with the Steelers, said that his faith played a big role in allowing him to overcome a life-threatening spinal injury he suffered in a Dec. 4, 2017, game in Cincinnati. He overcame overwhelming odds and has regained the ability to walk.

He now helps others who suffer from similar injuries through his foundation.

“At first, it was tough to be an inspiration,” Shazier said. “Sometimes you are just trying to do what is best for yourself. But as you see you are helping so many other people, you’re going through a transformation that lets you see how much it impacts other people as well as yourself.”

Claret, who was a running back at Ohio State, had a rocky career with the Buckeyes and talks candidly about his struggles and his recovery. He said he’s glad to see that players can now have the opportunity to make money while in college.

“These young guys are able to do something that I wasn’t able to do,” he explained before the dinner. “They can monetize themselves. Everybody won’t get a chance to go to the professional level. For a lot of guys, that might be their biggest paycheck or, maybe the resources they receive in college will be the biggest thing they get. For all of the work they put in, if they can benefit from that and help their families and help themselves and potentially parlay that into something else to invest, I think that’s great.”

Tomczak played 15 seasons in the National Football League, including a stint with the Steelers. He said the battle to see who will replace the retired Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers quarterback should be competitive.

“I’m a fan of Mitch Trubisky. I watched him play in Chicago,” Tomczak said of the free agent the Steelers signed this off-season. “Mason Rudolph has been around for a number of years.”

“Kenny Pickett will come into own,” he said of the team’s first-round draft choice from the University of Pittsburgh.

“You can’t be a good quarterback unless you have those guys up front, doing the dirty work an protecting you,” he added. “That’s the biggest improvement I look for the Steelers to have this year.”

Scott Greve, the university’s athletic director, gave an update on the school’s sports program as part of the evening’s program.

Tressel added three participants to the panel discussion, inviting former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the stage and calling on two of the region’s high school football coaching legends, Steubenville Big Red’s Reno Saccoccia and retired Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render, to the ask questions.


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