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Usher spills secrets, stories of Ohio Stadium

Trevor Zahara's book was released as an e-book in late August before becoming available in print in September.

Trevor Zahara’s book was released as an e-book in late August before becoming available in print in September.

Football players, coaches, students, faculty and Buckeyes alike come and go through Ohio Stadium, but few spend as much time in its concrete walls as Ohio State’s ushers.

If you’ve been to the stadium, you’ve probably seen or even talked to an usher as they showed you to your seat, took your tickets and answered your questions. Major events happen each year in Ohio Stadium, and it’s no surprise that the ushers have collected some colorful stories over the years. Now, those stories are the focus of one usher’s new book. 

Trevor Zahara, an Ohio State alumnus who has been an usher for 17 years, is the author of “Confessions of an OSU Usher,” an idea he said was inspired by one of his late colleagues.

“During those 17 years, I became good friends with the head usher,” Zahara said. “(James Norris) was an usher for over 40 years and was such a super guy.” 

Zahara said he and Norris used to meet for lunch with other ushers to share stories and discuss traditions surrounding OSU football. Norris died in 2011 and his stories went with him, but Zahara got the idea to collect the stories of other ushers after speaking with Norris’ replacement. The stories were mainly collected through email, but he also conducted interviews in-person and over the phone.

Zahara collected stories from fellow ushers, coaches, faculty members and band members, and then ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to meet his nearly $5,000 goal to cover the publishing costs of his book.

“I interviewed Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel, and I got a lot of stories from Gene Smith,” Zahara said.

In the 332 pages of “Confessions of an OSU Usher,” the stories paint a picture of the Ohio Stadium over the years, with some of the ushers having up to 50 years of history with OSU, Zahara said. Describing his book as “entertaining as well as educational,” Zahara said that the book includes factoids about the stadium that people might not know about.

For example, the “Freedom Train,” an exhibition route intended to drum up patriotism, ran through campus in the late 1940s on the site of what become St. John Arena in 1956. The same tracks that bore that train also took fans to away games for $2, according to Lantern archives

All kinds of stories can be found in his book, ranging from father-son stories to ex-football players to stories of streakers that ran through Ohio Stadium.

Adele Stratton, an OSU alumna, volunteered her time to help Zahara edit his book.

“I met Trevor more than 20 years ago,” Stratton said in an email. “Trevor didn’t actually approach me about editing his book — I offered to do it during a conversation he and I had when he was telling me how his book was coming along.”

While editing the stories, Stratton noticed two different themes from the stories told by students and the stories told by alumni.

“The stories from current and younger students had somewhat more of a ‘This is how it is’ feel, while those from ushers and alumni — some in their 80s and older — lent broader, retrospective views,” she said. “Together, they coalesce into a book that I think most OSU sports fans will both appreciate and enjoy.”

Sarada Dhulipala, a fourth-year in economics, said she would be interested in reading a book with stories about Ohio Stadium.

“It’s just being a part of Ohio State. There’s a lot of traditions coming in and it would be cool to learn more about them,” she said. 

Dhulipala said it would be interesting to learn about traditions that aren’t as well-known as the more popular traditions, such as the Mirror Lake jump, when OSU fans jump in Mirror Lake the week before the annual football game against Michigan.

Zahara, who said his entire family bleeds scarlet and gray, said he hopes the OSU and Columbus communities alike will pick up a copy of his book and learn about the stories that many of the ushers keep with them.

“Everything I have, I owe to Ohio State,” Zahara said. “I think students will get a better understanding of what everything is, from the stadium to Mirror Lake to OSU traditions.”

Zahara will be hosting a wine-and-cheese tasting book signing event to thank his initial Kickstarter backers. The event is set to be held at the Bryce Eck Activity Center on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. 

“Confessions of an OSU Usher” is available for purchase on Amazon for $19.95.

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