YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — For the first day in over eight years, Jim Tressel is not the president of Youngstown State University as Helen Lafferty assumed her role as interim president on Wednesday.

Youngstown State alumnus Paul McFadden was kicking for the Philadelphia Eagles when he came back for a visit in 1986.

“[I] bumped into this really young new head coach,” McFadden said. “It was like, ‘This guy’s too young.'”

It didn’t take McFadden long to change his opinion.

“You knew right away he was pretty special,” McFadden said.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown says having Tressel as part of the contingent in Washington D.C. helped Youngstown get a $10 million grant to redo the streets downtown and around the university.

“His star power didn’t hurt us,” Brown said. “He’s been very great to work with.”

Phantom Fireworks owner Bruce Zoldan was among the people who signed a letter supporting Tressel’s hiring as YSU president.

“I’m super thankful to everyone that was involved with bringing him here, and certainly to have a person like that in our community,” Zoldan said. “I think the world of Jim Tressel.”

Dr. Nancy Wagner runs the Centofanti School of Nursing at YSU. She was most impressed with Tressel’s commitment to presence.

“In the middle of COVID, he came to our drive-through medallion ceremony. He was there to connect with parents, and they felt better knowing the president was there,” Wagner said.

Chet Cooper is a professor of biology and served as chairman of the academic senate, where they sometimes differed. Even so, Cooper praised Tressel for his time as president.

“He had his own style, and he and I didn’t always agree on the issues,” Cooper said. “A university’s what goes on on the inside. And he’s made extraordinarily positive contributions to making sure that we’re a center of academic excellence.”

“I tell people, if he was the director of the marching band, that team would have the best marching band at halftime in the world. I mean, he’s a leader,” McFadden said.

As Tressel ends his 23-and-a-half-year run with YSU, where does he stand among the most significant figures in Mahoning Valley history?

His colleagues rank him very highly — within the Top 10, at least.

“I would put him with John Young and Volney Rogers,” McFadden said. “His legacy as a football coach here was secure for generations in our Valley. Now, his legacy as a community leader, as president of our university — they’ll be talking about Jim Tressel for centuries.”