Vrabel returns to Ohio State as coach
Former Buckeye returns to Columbus after 14-year NFL career
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell filled the linebacker coach position on his staff with a former player: Mike Vrabel.
Vrabel, the 14-year National Football League veteran and three-time Super Bowl winner who was so highly thought of in the professional ranks that he was a team captain and a member of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, announced his retirement from pro football Monday in order to return to his alma mater.
"I am very excited to become a part of Luke Fickell's staff at Ohio State," Vrabel said. "I have great faith and trust in Luke leading the Buckeye football team as he represents all the core values integral for a program's success, and I am looking forward to working with our student-athletes as I begin the next phase of my career."
Fickell and Vrabel were college roommates and defensive line teammates at Ohio State.
"Mike will bring passion and a competitive nature to everything we do, and I am really pleased to announce his addition to our coaching staff," Fickell said. "I am excited about what Mike brings to the program in terms of football knowledge and also in terms of what it means to be a Buckeye. He is what every one of our young men desire to be: a great student, player, husband and father!"
Vrabel, like Fickell, has a degree from Ohio State in exercise science. And Vrabel, like Fickell who was four times named Academic all-Big Ten, didn't let the challenges of the sport interfere with his efforts in the classroom as he earned Academic all-Big Ten honors two times himself.
Both were outstanding competitors for the Buckeyes. While Fickell, the nose guard, set the school record with 50 consecutive starts between 1993-96, Vrabel was right next to him at defensive end earning two Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was the first to win the award consecutively and he also earned back-to-back All-America honors in 1995 and 1996. Vrabel twice set the single season record for sacks and tackles for loss (TFL) and he still holds school records for career sacks (36) and single season and career TFLs (26 in 1995 and 66).
Outside of their work at football camps and clinics to support their "2nd and 7 Foundation", which provides books to children and encourages them to read and swap titles with their friends, the duo has waited some 15 years to team up again on the football field.
That's because while Fickell was starting his coaching career a year out of Ohio State, Vrabel embarked on what would become a distinguished NFL career with three teams. It was a career that saw him a part of the New England Patriots' dynamic run of three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003, 2004). In 2007, as a member of the Patriots, he was named to the Pro Bowl and a month later was named All-Pro.
On top of these accomplishments, Vrabel's career included 206 games played with Pittsburgh, New England and Kansas City, 140 starts and enough impressive statistics - 57 sacks, 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and 11 touchdowns receiving (as a tight end), including two in Super Bowls - that one has to conclude he is one of the great performers in a team sport that Ohio State has ever produced.
Bill Belichick, his coach for eight years in New England, was most impressed with Vrabel as a player and is confident of his abilities to lead as a coach.
"During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike," Belichick said. "He was elected a team captain by his peers and is a player who I think everyone knew was destined to become a coach after his NFL playing career was over.
"Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached. He has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners."
Drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh, Vrabel spent four years with the Steelers and played in 51 games. He was a starter for eight seasons with the Patriots, playing in 125 games and starting 110 games. He spent the last two years with Kansas City playing in and starting 30 games.
"I am extremely appreciative of the teammates, coaches, and great fans who surrounded me during my NFL career, and am honored to have been a part of three tremendous organizations in the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs," Vrabel said. "I am especially grateful to Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, who not only gave me the opportunity to play for a team that won three Super Bowl championships and an NFL record 21 games in a row, but also taught me invaluable lessons on creating the ultimate team approach."
A native of Akron, Ohio, and a graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School, Vrabel and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of two sons: 10-year-old Tyler and 9-year-old Carter.