Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Ohio State has announced a big-name hire to fill the open coaching position at Ohio State. Former Super Bowl champion Mike Vrabel is set to rejoin the Buckeyes.
After former head coach Jim Tressel’s departure and Luke Fickell was chosen to take over the top role, a replacement was needed for Fickell’s previous position as linebacker coach.
Fickell said while it took a while to finalize the decision, Vrabel was always his first choice for the job opening.
“(Offering Vrabel the job) was always in my mind,” Fickell said. “And then to actually have him come in two to three days later and kind of just look at me and say ‘Give me a reason to retire,’ was something that meant a lot to me.”
Vrabel, a former defensive end at OSU from 1993–96, was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year during both the 1995 and 1996 seasons. During his college playing days, Vrabel was also a defensive line mate with new OSU head coach Luke Fickell —Vrabel was a defensive end while Fickell played nose guard.
Vrabel and Fickell were roommates together in college and will now come together after Vrabel’s 14-year NFL career.
“I had the opportunity to play for a lot of great teams and a lot of great organizations,” Vrabel said. “Hopefully I can take what I learned from those teams and those organizations and apply to it what we’re trying to do here.”
Vrabel’s acceptance of the linebacker coaching job was also the official retirement of his highly-decorated professional football career.
“The biggest reason for retirement is none other than there comes a time where you can’t do what you used to do,” Vrabel said. “I’ve come to a point where I can’t train to prepare for an NFL football season … This is where I want to be.”
Vrabel was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent his first four years as a professional there. Vrabel was later traded to the New England Patriots where he became a force on both sides of the ball.
In short-yardage situations, Patriots coach Bill Belichick used Vrabel as a tight end. In his eight years with the Patriots, Vrabel, who typically played linebacker, had 10 receptions, all for touchdowns.
During his time at New England, Vrabel won three Super Bowls and also appeared in the 2007 Pro Bowl.
Vrabel was then traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, where he is still under contract. Media outlets have reported that multiple sources close to Vrabel expect the former Buckeye to retire from the NFL and accept the coaching position at OSU.
Vrabel would be coming to OSU after a recent run-in with law enforcement.
On April 5, Vrabel was arrested for theft at an Indiana casino and was released later that day after posting bond. Vrabel called the arrest an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
More recently, Vrabel has been a vocal member of the NFL Players Association and is one of 10 players involved in the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.
Vrabel said that while it is a blessing to be working for his best friend, he would want to coach at Ohio State no matter who was in the head-coaching role.
“I work for Luke, I work for Jim Heacock. If it were another coach, I’d still wanna be at Ohio State,” Vrabel said.
Jerry Emig, assistant athletics communication director, said the contract details for Vrabel’s hire were still being worked out.
Fickell described Vrabel as someone he would want leading his players.
“He is a very aggressive, confident person, he communicates very well, he is a very upfront honest person,” Fickell said. “Since the day I met him, he always told me, ‘I’m going to be a coach.'”
Vrabel said that what he has done in the past, including winning three Super Bowls, is great, but he is looking forward to his career as a coach at OSU.
“I’m proud of my career, but I’m more excited now for this opportunity,” Vrabel said.