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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 07/11/2011 6:44 PM

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Vrabel Brings Instant Recruiting Credibility
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — He isn’t the most imposing figure to walk through the doors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, not by a long shot.

His personality didn’t fill up the room during Monday’s introductory press conference either, but Mike Vrabel might be exactly what Ohio State needs to shift some momentum back in the right direction.

Mike Vrabel
Photo by Dan Harker
Mike Vrabel

After months of negative press surrounding the Buckeyes, who lost their head coach and star quarterback to scandal, Vrabel’s return to Columbus brings some much-needed credibility to a program that has been reeling as of late, especially on the recruiting trail.

“I think he can give a jolt to recruiting from the simple fact that if you were a kid and you have Luke Fickell coming to your house, that’s impressive enough but all of a sudden you bring Mike Vrabel in too,” said former Ohio State cornerback Dustin Fox.

“That’s just such a tag-team combination that it would be hard for me, and I’m assuming it would be hard for most kids, to not be impressed by that.”

Now an analyst with WEWS-TV in Cleveland, Fox was a starting corner on the 2002 Ohio State team that beat Miami (Fla.) in the BCS National Championship game. He played four seasons in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills, but even that hardly compares to a guy who won three Super Bowls in 14 seasons as a linebacker in the NFL.

“I don’t know too many kids who get recruited by someone who is a better football player than them right now,” said Fox, who was a 4-year starter for the Buckeyes. 

“When Mark Dantonio and Mel Tucker and Jim Tressel came to my house I was only 18, but I’m pretty sure I was a better football player than all three of those guys. Mike Vrabel is going to be walking into these kid’s houses and basically throwing them across the room.”

Other than Kyle Kalis, the former OSU commit who has since verbally committed to Michigan, he probably won’t want to use force as a method of recruiting kids to Ohio State. He also doesn’t have any plans to flash his extensive jewelry collection in their faces.

“The only people who want to wear Super Bowl rings are the ones who never won one,” Vrabel said Monday when he was introduced as the new linebackers coach.

“I don't anticipate putting three rings on and going out on a recruiting trip. My fingers aren't really much for rings, anyway.”

The 35-year old Vrabel would prefer to walk softly and let his reputation carry the big stick. Along with his all-pro career in the NFL, he was also one of the most dominant defensive players the Big Ten has ever seen. Along with being Ohio State’s all-time sack-leader, Vrabel was also the first player ever to be named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row.

“He is something for our kids to emulate,” said Fickell, who played on the defensive line with Vrabel in the mid 1990’s.

“They want to be like him, with what he's done here at Ohio State, what he's done in the NFL and what he's done later in life with his family as a father and husband.”

Fickell said he wasn’t trying to make a splash with his new hire, but that didn’t stop it from happening. In hiring his best friend to replace him as the linebackers coach, Fickell also landed a man who has earned the respect of some of the great minds in all of football, including his former head coaches, Bill Cowher and Bill Belicheck.

Kids today may not have known Fickell during his playing days, when he was one of the toughest linemen in the Big Ten, but they will certainly remember the images of Vrabel catching touchdown passes or sacking quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with New England.

“He can relate,” said Fox, who has known Vrabel for years and worked with him at his youth camps. 

“He’s in his mid 30’s, but he still knows what’s going on. He was playing in the league up until this year and kids respect that.”

Respect is something Ohio State could use a little of right now.

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