Skull Session: How Orlando Pace Became The Pancake Man, Marcus Freeman is a Jim Tressel Disciple and Ohio Stadium Will Have New Food Items This Season

By Chase Brown on September 1, 2022 at 5:00 am
The Pancake Man

It's all starting to feel real.

On Saturday, every Ohio State fan will escape to a reality where the only thing that matters is their favorite team winning a football game.

No matter your race, religion, political beliefs or whatever separates us in our society, you'll all be rooting for the Buckeyes as they take on Notre Dame under the lights in front of 100,000-plus fans inside Ohio Stadium.

That, my friends, is the beauty of sports.

Let's have a great Thursday, shall we?

 THE PANCAKE MAN. Orlando Pace is one of the best players in Ohio State football history. He was a two-time unanimous All-American left tackle for the Buckeyes from 1994-96, but that's not all. During his three-year career, Pace also won the Lombardi Award (twice), the Outland Trophy and finished in fourth place for the 1996 Heisman Trophy.

But wait – there's even more. Pace was so dominant at Ohio State that the term "Pancake Block" gained popularity due to his play. A pancake block occurs when an offensive lineman knocks a defender on his back at or past the line of scrimmage. And, well, Pace racked up a lot of those in college.

In a recent episode of Eli's Places with Eli Manning on ESPN+, Pace explained how he became known as The Pancake Man.

After his collegiate career, Pace continued building his legacy as one of the most dominant forces in football. The St. Louis Rams selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft, and he later became a seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro selection.

Pace contributed to the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf offense that won Super Bowl XXXIV, and he protected future Hall of Famers in quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk for several seasons. Pace was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

 A TRESSEL DISCIPLE. While Marcus Freeman will be an opponent, a rival or even an enemy when Notre Dame visits Columbus on Saturday, the 36-year-old head coach has Buckeye roots that still run deep.

After all, Freeman played college ball at Ohio State and later returned to the program as a graduate assistant under then-head coach Jim Tressel. In an interview with Pete Sampson of The Athletic, Freeman said his times in Columbus were the most foundational years of his young career – one that is budding with potential and promise.

Freeman believes Tressel profoundly impacted his life. He hopes to bring the same qualities the former Ohio State coach created for the Buckeyes into his Notre Dame program.

“The best thing I’ve observed from him is the ability to make everybody in your organization feel important, but also make it so that they are important,” Freeman said. “That’s what I want to make sure we reflect here is that everybody in our program has to understand that their role is just as valuable as mine as the head coach.”

James Laurinaitis was Freeman's teammate at Ohio State. They developed a tight-knit relationship in college that has continued into the present day. Now a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, Laurinaitis has seen Freeman adopt Tressel's coaching and teaching philosophies of compassion, humility and wisdom.

“Tressel had an uncanny ability, I’m talking about uncanny, where he would meet somebody and he’s just present and he has a way of remembering it and feeling like you’re the only person that’s important to him right now,” Laurinaitis said. “You can’t fake that. It’s authentic. And Marcus has those traits.”

Freeman has studied and incorporated what Sampson called the “Book of Tressel” at Notre Dame: Memorize teammates’ names, hometowns and high schools, research All-Americans who had worn their number and learn the school's alma mater song, among other things.

When Notre Dame takes the field on Saturday to the tune of boos and vulgarity from the Ohio State faithful, Tressel will look down from his seat with a smile. And when you watch the Fighting Irish play, remember that a Tressel disciple stands on the sidelines as a confident and charismatic leader.

 NEW FOOD AT THE SHOE. Ohio Stadium will serve new menu items at concession stands this season to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Horseshoe, according to an Ohio State release.

Options like the “Century Dog” – a hot dog loaded with bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and a chipotle avocado aioli – will be featured across the main concourse. Additionally, local restaurants Hot Chicken Takeover and Dirty Frank's will have kiosks inside the stadium.

Another new option will be “Taste of the Competition” burger carts with menus inspired by the regional flavors of visiting opponents. The stadium will also feature mobile ordering for all permanent concession stands inside the stadium, a new point-of-sale system for quicker checkouts and smartphone payments at all concession stands and kiosks.

I don't know much, but I will be looking forward to seeing what creation the Taste of the Competition stand has when Rutgers visits Columbus. I imagine that the burger will be on a bagel. For Wisconsin, maybe a four-cheese burger. I'm out of ideas after that.

 TIME TO TAILGATE? A few weeks back I featured a post from Big Game Boomer about Ohio State's tailgate scene. I learned about former president Karen A. Holbrook cracking down on parties and the corporate upheaval surrounding the Horseshoe, leading to a decline in overall satisfaction for fans attending campus before games.

But there might still be some things to like about tailgating at Ohio State. According to Bookies, a sports betting website with college football expertise, the Buckeyes have the best pregame atmosphere in the Big Ten.

Here is what staff writer Dan Kilbridge said about the location, environment, entertainment and family sentiment – the factors Bookies used to rank the Big Ten schools – surrounding Ohio Stadium:

Gameday at the Horseshoe feels like a pro environment for all the right reasons. There’s massive infrastructure surrounding the Horseshoe and tons of room for grilling, tailgating, etc. The Buckeyes fanbase needs no introduction and doesn’t skip on anything when it comes to food and drinks. 

The town of Columbus is also one of the best in the Midwest, with a vibrant arts scene and unlimited offerings for visiting fans. It’s easy to be skeptical and Ohio State fans aren’t the most friendly in general, but the gameday experience leaves you in awe of the scale of the operation. From the history to the passion to the endless surrounding entertainment, Columbus tops our list of Big Ten pregame experiences.

Eleven Warriors readers are my primary source for understanding the tailgating scene at Ohio State, so I'll trust your opinion over anyone else. However, there's some food for thought here for Buckeye fans. Are the tailgates in Columbus still the best around?

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.

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