Monday, July 11, 2011

VRABEL NAMED NEW BUCKEYES LB COACH MONDAY, RETIRES FROM NFL

Mike Vrabel
(AP/Andy King)
COLUMBUS — When Ohio State named Luke Fickell as its head football coach on May 30, he left a huge void for the Buckeyes at the linebacker coaching spot.

On Monday morning, Fickell filled the position in a huge way.

Former Buckeye star and three-time Super Bowl champion linebacker, Mike Vrabel, accepted the opening with Ohio State on Monday, while also announcing his retirement from the NFL after 14 outstanding years of playing service.

Vrabel, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and most recently the Kansas City Chiefs, leaves behind a legacy that many have never come close to accomplishing, to begin a new one at his alma mater.

"I am very excited to become a part of Luke Fickell's staff at Ohio State," Vrabel said Monday. "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, who was roommates with Vrabel at Ohio State during his collegiate playing days, said Monday that there is not a person more qualified to coach at Ohio State than the former two-time Buckeye all-American.

"Mike is someone our kids try to emulate," Fickell said. "They want to be like him.

"Since the day I met him, he told me, 'I'm going to be a coach. He would always say, 'I'll be a coach someday."

He was certainly a great player.

At Ohio State, Vrabel tallied a school-record for sacks in a season (13) and career (36), as well as tackles for loss in a season (26) and career (66). He was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996.

In his 14 seasons in the NFL, Vrabel played in 206 games (140 starts), recording 669 tackles, 57 sacks, 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, and even scored 11 touchdowns as a tight end, including two in Super Bowl victories with the Patriots. He was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl in 2007 and was named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade team (2000-2009).

Patriots three-time Super Bowl winning head coach Bill Belichick issued a raving endorsement for Vrabel on Monday.

"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 in a statement Monday. "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."

Vrabel said Monday that playing in Kansas City the past two seasons has given him a taste of what coaching is all about.

"These past two years, when you're coaching 20- and 21-year old guys that are fresh out of college, I think that's probably helped me the most," Vrabel said.

"(Kansas City's) a young football team. It was a great role to be able to go out there and be able to play and not only help them on the field, but help guys in the locker room, help them in the film room."

Current Kansas City Chiefs general manager — and former Patriots VP of Player Personnel — Scott Pioli stated Monday that Vrabel is simply a champion.

"His genuine love for the game, his preparation, his work ethic, leadership and dependability are qualities you want from every player," Pioli said of Vrabel. "He is a champion in every sense of the word and I'm confident all of those qualities will make him a great coach. I cannot overstate my respect for him as a person and a football player.

"If there were a Hall of Champions, Mike Vrabel would be a first ballot selection."

Vrabel, 35 — who was born in Akron and played his high school football at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit — is married to wife Jennifer, and has two sons: Tyler (10) and Carter (9).