Buckeyes Officially Bring Vrabel Home
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the worst kept secret but biggest news of the day, Ohio State officially introduced Mike Vrabel as the newest assistant coach Monday.
Rumors had been swirling basically since Luke Fickell was promoted to head coach back in May that he would hire his former college roommate and teammate with the Buckeyes to replace him as the linebackers coach in Columbus.
A 14-year veteran of the NFL, Vrabel originally said he was not ready to give up his playing days, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t interested in the idea of coaching at his alma mater or coaching with the best man in his wedding.
“I think that it's certainly something that I'd be interested in under the right situation,” Vrabel said following Fickell’s introductory press conference last month.
“I'd have to look and see where my career comes in, and my involvement with the Players Association, and being on the executive committee with that.”
The 35-year old has been dealing with the NFL lockout this off-season, attempting to piece together a new collective bargaining agreement with the owners. Rumors have the two sides drawing closer on a deal that would reinstate football for the 2011 season.
After playing the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Vrabel would then be a free agent following the lockout. Instead, the former Pittsburgh Steeler and New England Patriot will hang up his No. 50 jersey for the opportunity to work alongside a close friend.
“I think what he's done here at Ohio State, the type of players that he's coached, what he's done as a player, what he did as an individual in wrestling, they got the right guy,” Vrabel said of Fickell, who was promoted to head coach on May 30 following the resignation, or retirement of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.
“I'm happy for him. I'm proud of him, and I'm happy for Ohio State football.”
Vrabel began his friendship with Fickell in the mid 1990’s when the two starred on one of the top defensive lines in Ohio State history. With Fickell anchoring down the middle at nose guard, Vrabel became the first player in Big Ten history to win back-to-back Defensive Lineman of the Year awards.
A two-time All-American, Vrabel also set school records for sacks in season (13) and in a career (36) along with career tackles for loss (66). Meanwhile Fickell set his own school-record with 50 consecutive starts on the front line.
Together under the tutelage of then-defensive line coach Jim Heacock—now the defensive coordinator—Fickell and Vrabel helped the Buckeyes to a 11-1 season in 1996, a year after they were 11-2. The Buckeyes allowed only 131 points during the entire ’96 season, which was the lowest total in nearly two decades.
While Fickell went straight into coaching, Vrabel was taken in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent four seasons in the Steel City before blossoming into an all-pro caliber linebacker under Bill Belicheck in New England.
Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, and in 2004 he became the first defensive player to score a Super Bowl touchdown on offense since William “Refrigerator” Perry in 1985. He finished his NFL career with 704 tackles, 57 sacks, 11 interceptions and 17 forced fumbles.
He will join a defensive staff that already includes Heacock—his former position coach—cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson and safeties coach Paul Haynes.
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