Crammed to the gills with media, faculty, coaches, and various other onlookers as Luke Fickell was introduced as Ohio State's 23rd head coach on Monday, in the back of the room there were two former Buckeyes who had hoped that they would one day get to see Fickell land his dream job.
Pair of Former Buckeyes Have Faith In Fickell
Bobby Carpenter and Mike Vrabel give Fickel vote of confidence
By Tony Gerdeman
Mike Vrabel, who was a linemate of Fickell's for three seasons, and Bobby Carpenter, who played under Fickell as a junior and senior, were both in attendance to lend their support and to see that dream realized.
Vrabel, who was a two-time All-American at defensive end while Fickell was manning the nose tackle, has known for quite some time that Fickell, who was the Best Man at his wedding, had his sights set on this job, and so he had his sights on it happening as well.
“I had always hoped, but I don't make that decision," he chuckled. "I don't have enough money. I don't give enough. But I had always hoped so."
“I think what he's done here at Ohio State, the type of player that he's coached, what he's done as a player, what he did as an individual in wrestling, they got the right guy. I'm happy for him. I'm proud of him, and I'm happy for Ohio State football.”
Fickell took over the linebacker coaching duties in 2004. It was those two seasons that Carpenter got to spend with him that he says he really blossomed as a player.
“He was a very difficult coach to play for as a position coach because he's very demanding," Carpenter admitted.
"But I improved dramatically under him. It was my final two seasons when he really took over the linebackers, and at that point in the maturation process, he was able to get a lot out of A.J. (Hawk), Anthony (Schlegel) and myself."
"You can either have production or you can have excuses, but you can't have both, and that's what he holds you to.”
Like Vrabel, Carpenter saw Fickell as an eventual head coach of the Buckeyes, but sometimes it's more about timing than qualifications.
“It's a position that doesn't come open very often," he said.
"Generally, when people are hired here, they're hired for a decade or more. We've had four coaches in the past fifty years, and Luke's the fifth.
"It's all about timing sometimes and being successful enough to make sure you can get back here. I thought he was definitely always going to be qualified, and I knew this was a dream that he had, and I'm very excited for him.
"I think this is something that I always foresaw, but you just really never know how it's going to work out."
Clearly, both have faith that Ohio State has found the right man for the job. Despite the way in which the job was handed down, and the uphill battle that Fickell faces from here on out, Vrabel says the only proper way to look at this situation is as an incredible opportunity.
“Wally Pipp walked into the locker room one day and had a headache, and then Lou Gehrig played. So I look at it as an opportunity. Luke's ready to go. He's excited, obviously. He just wants to coach those players. That's what he enjoys, and that's what he loves doing.”
"Whether this is a two-game tryout or a ten-year tryout, I think he would take any opportunity he was given," echoed Carpenter.
I believe he is going to be successful at it, and hopefully the Ohio State family believes that."
Landing your dream job is just the beginning. It's only then that the hard part really begins. The question now becomes what type of coach Fickell will be, and will he be successful enough to be at Ohio State for the long haul.
History suggests that once you become Ohio State's head coach, you're going to have to set aside at least the next decade of your life. Vrabel and Carpenter certainly believe Fickell is ready for this next step.
“I think he's going to be the same kind of coach that he's been for the past 13 or 14 years," Vrabel said.
"He's tough. He's passionate. He knows that he can't go out there and make those plays anymore, so he does everything he can possibly do for those players to put them in a position to go out and have success.
"If you look at his linebackers since he's been coaching here, they've gone on to great careers in the NFL, and were successful playing college football.
"I would say the majority of them have gotten their degrees, or are on track to get their degrees. He's not going to change what he's done that has made him successful.”
“He's a no-nonsense type of coach," said Carpenter.
"That's the way he was as a player, and that's the way he is as a person. So what he says is how it's gonna be. There isn't going to be any gray area. I think the players will respond to that because everybody loves to know what it takes to be successful, and I feel like he's going to be able to lay that out for them and he's going to hold everybody accountable.”
"It doesn't matter whether you're the starting quarterback at Ohio State or the third-string punter, this is how it's gonna be. You're a part of a team and we're all in this together.”
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