After 14 years in the NFL, 8 of them in New England, and three Super Bowl championships, linebacker Mike Vrabel is retiring from the NFL. Unlike many who retire from the game, Vrabel already has a new job. Vrabel will coach linebackers at his alma mater, Ohio State. Joining the Patriots after spending four years in Pittsburgh, Vrabel flourished as an every-down outside linebacker. He could set the edge against the run and also rush the passer effectively. But Vrabel was more diverse than just being a good linebacker, as he could also line up at tight end and catch passes. He did it on the biggest stage in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers, catching a touchdown pass from Tom Brady.
Vrabel made the following statement at a press conference at Ohio State:
After 14 years in the National Football League, I have decided to retire and accept the position of Linebackers Coach at The Ohio State University.
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. 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.
I am very excited to become a part of Luke Fickell’s staff at Ohio State. 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.
Bill Belichick shared his thoughts on Mike Vrabel:
“During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike. 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.”
Former teammate in New England, Tedy Bruschi, posted a column on ESPN Boston sharing his thoughts on Mike Vrabel and congratulating him on a great career. Bruschi noted what a great teammate Vrabel was and said that the Patriots would have “zero championships” without Vrabel because he was a big-game player. That’s pretty high praise, as the Patriots pride themselves on being a strong team without a single player meaning more than the whole.
What was so special about him [Vrabel] is that he combined that knowledge with an attitude and confidence that really trickled down to all of us on the defensive unit. He led the mentality that we were not just a bunch of “yes” men. You always accept coaching, but after hearing what we were asked to do, if he had questions or concerns, he stated them and let the coaches know, whether it was Matt Patricia, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel or Bill Belichick. We’d question things we didn’t feel comfortable with and Vrabes led that charge.
Bruschi goes on to share a few stories about Vrabel, and it’s really worth the read. It’s tough for me to pick out a single favorite Mike Vrabel moment because he did so many different things, but if I had to pick one, it would be his touchdown reception in the Super Bowl. I recall literally “laughing out loud” at the fact that on the biggest stage in the biggest game, a big linebacker goes out and catches a touchdown pass. With all of the weapons Brady had, he goes to a linebacker to make a critical score. But that was Vrabel in a nutshell: When you needed, no matter what it was, he was there, he did it, and he did it well.
Thanks for the memories.