To Jerame Tuman, the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry remains indescribable.
His history in “The Game” ended 25 years ago, beating Ohio State in three of his four meetings as a Wolverines tight end from 1995-98, each by eight points or less.
Even after a 10-year NFL career — nine with the Pittsburgh Steelers — Tuman still hasn’t played in a game that matched the intensity of that final regular-season game in November.
“I’ve been in two Super Bowls,” Tuman said. “The Super Bowl is obviously tremendous, tremendous, spectacular game. But that Michigan-Ohio State game, even though some years it wasn’t for a national championship, or maybe not even the Big Ten title for us, was just as important and meant just as much to us.”
This is the environment Mia Tuman grew up in, one where her father Jerame never had to explain what the rivalry means.
Mia Tuman always saw herself playing volleyball at Michigan.
The family connection was there, with her father playing at Michigan and her mother having family scattered around metro Detroit, including a brother — Scott Dreisbach — who played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1995-98.
The offer was there, getting Michigan women’s volleyball’s official attention in eighth grade, filling her closet with maize and blue Wolverines gear and developing a reputation at North Allegheny High in Pennsylvania.
“Everyone (at school) knew I was a Michigan fan,” Tuman said. “So like on those days, they would pick on me about Michigan. I’d be like, ‘Oh no, we’re going to beat Ohio State this year.’ ”
Ohio State was not on Tuman’s radar. But Jen Flynn Oldenburg was, having coached Tuman since she was 10 years old with the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Association, mentoring her as the Buckeyes’ former All-Big Ten setter.
Once Oldenburg became Ohio State’s women’s volleyball coach in January 2020, Tuman became the Buckeyes’ top target at setter in the 2023 class, planning ahead years in advance with Mac Podraza and Sarah White on the roster.
“Knowing her personality and what she could be and would be, for me it was a no-brainer that I wanted (Tuman) here,” Oldenburg said. “It was just a matter of, ‘OK, is this a deal breaker?’ ”
Oldenburg brought Ohio State on Tuman’s radar, seeing the potential in what she and her staff was building in Columbus.
“It’s everyone’s dream, but it’s always been my dream to win a national championship, Big Ten championship,” Tuman said. “And I could really see that here. I wanted to play for coaches who really cared about the players, and I felt like this place, just talking to them — and obviously I have history with Jen and love her. She’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever been coached by. But I think after seeing that, it was eye-opening.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t just throw it away because of a rivalry.’ ”
Molly Tuman thought she knew how her daughter’s recruitment was going to go.
As Ohio State and Michigan became Mia Tuman’s two finalists, the family decided to take back-to-back visits in Columbus and Ann Arbor before ultimately making her college decision. Molly Tuman, who was a record-setting outside hitter at Kentucky, said she expected her daughter to take the visit at Ohio State and see everything before making her Michigan visit and committing on campus.
Instead, Ohio State, Molly remembered, was everything Mia Tuman wanted, from the coaches and players to the facilities and the dorms.
On the 183-mile drive to Ann Arbor after her Ohio State visit, Mia Tuman said she was in tears, not expecting to love the Buckeyes as much as she did.
“I was like, to both my parents in the car, ‘This is going to be very hard,’ ” Tuman said. “I already knew I loved Michigan. I’ve been there a ton. This is my first real, like seeing everything, talking with the coaches (at Ohio State). And I was just so torn because I’m like, ‘This is going to be so much harder than I thought. I thought it was going to be a done deal.’ ”
Through Mia’s recruiting process, Jerame Tuman found himself taking a step back, trying to look at the decision through his daughter’s eyes. And as a former Michigan football player, he found himself torn between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines.
“To be 100% honest with you,” Jerame Tuman said, “it was like a 50/50 split for me.”
Mia did not have long to decide between Ohio State and Michigan, with the Wolverines reaching out and admitting another target was getting pressure from another program, and that they needed to know if they needed to save a scholarship spot for her.
Tuman didn’t have to wait long to decide, texting her parents in the middle of the night that she had made a decision days after both visits, informing both in the morning that she would be going to Ohio State.
Throughout her daughter’s recruiting process, Molly aimed to mirror what her parents were for her: allowing Mia to make her college choice hers and hers alone, finding a school that felt right, just like she did with Kentucky.
With Ohio State, Molly saw a school that clicked for Mia.
“I’m so happy that she made it and felt good about it and she didn’t go off of anything other than what her gut told her and what she trusted to be the right place for her,” Molly Tuman said.
Mia Tuman begins path with Ohio State women’s volleyball
Mia Tuman didn’t have much Ohio State gear.
When she visited the Buckeyes prior to her commitment, all she had was an old Ohio State volleyball camp shirt, one that she wore when she announced her commitment Aug. 5, 2021, ahead of her junior season at North Allegheny High.
But Oldenburg knew that Tuman’s commitment didn’t come solely because of the logo on her camp T-shirt. It came down to people.
“I think she wanted to have her own path, in a way,” Oldenburg said. “But also she wanted to do it here, with the people that were here.”
Tuman’s path started early.
After enrolling at Ohio State in January, Tuman was forced into a prominent role immediately, coming into her freshman season as one of two setters on the roster, along with West Virginia transfer Kamiah Gibson.
Through the Buckeyes’ spring schedule, including a trip to Greece and Italy for exhibitions against professional teams, Tuman led the offense, putting into practice the setter/hitter relationship her mother Molly had helped cultivate, developing trust and confidence with Ohio State’s veteran hitters such as returning All-Big Ten first-team member Emily Londot.
“They want everyone’s voice and they are looking for everyone’s voice,” Tuman said. “It’s nice to be able to have people that want criticism. Like I can go tell Londot, ‘Hey you need to close the ball,’ and she’s like ‘Yes, thank you.’ They want that. They are looking for that. Once I got here and really started to learn the team, I never felt like I couldn’t say something. It’s always very open.”
Attending each of Ohio State’s home spring matches Molly Tuman saw Mia Tuman turn into a player who belonged on a college volleyball floor, looking like she had been playing for years despite being the age of a traditional high school senior.
“It’s thrown her to the fire, but it’s also been such a great learning experience for her and a growing experience for her to kind of a confidence builder for her to be like, ‘Hey, I can play at this level,’ ” Molly said. “She always knew that she could. I don’t know if she knew she would be able to this early.”
For Jerame Tuman, there are no qualms about cheering for Ohio State. All he’s focused on is supporting Mia and her opportunity.
“She’s my blood, and that is most important to me,” Jerame Tuman said. “Each one of my children, it didn’t matter what situation I was in, who it was against, they would be first and foremost in my mind and I’d be rooting 100% and in their corner.”
As Mia prepared for her freshman season with the Buckeyes, that was something she was eager to test with her father.
“I got him a shirt for Christmas. It says volleyball on it. That had to be a thing,” Mia Tuman said. “He hasn’t worn it, but we will see. I’m thinking maybe the home matches, maybe he can have one that says ‘Tuman’ (and) my number. He always said he will if I play. He’s like, ‘If you play, I’ll put it on.’ ”
Source: The Columbus Dispatch