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Monday, July 11, 2011

Chiefs' Vrabel retires, takes Ohio State asst. job - Mike Vrabel injects optimism for Ohio State - Kyle Kalis now headed to Michigan




Chiefs' Vrabel retires, takes Ohio State asst. job

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Former All-Pro outside linebacker Mike Vrabel believes his 14 years in the NFL will help him as an assistant coach at his alma mater.
After several days of speculation, Vrabel officially retired from the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday and also announced he was returning to Ohio State as a linebackers coach. He'll take the spot vacated by his former roommate and teammate, Luke Fickell, who was elevated to head coach after Jim Tressel was forced to resign on May 30.
Vrabel believes his playing days relate and translate to his new job. But that doesn't mean he'll often be sporting the three Super Bowl rings he won with the New England Patriots.
"I haven't worn them since the day I got them," he said at a news conference on Monday morning in the Buckeyes' practice facility. "Once you win them, you don't really have to wear them. People know that you won the Super Bowl and you helped contribute to a championship team. I don't anticipate, you know, putting three rings on and going out on a recruiting trip."
The 35-year-old Vrabel played four years for the Pittsburgh Steelers, eight seasons with the Patriots and, for the past two years, the Kansas City Chiefs. He said working with so many young players on the Chiefs roster was good preparation for a coaching career.
"I got plenty of practice," he said of coaching. "That's a young football team. It was a great role to go out there and play. And not only help them on the field but help guys in the locker room and film room. I was blessed to have a lot of great coaches. But these last two years, when you're coaching 20- and 21-year-old guys that are fresh out of college, that's probably helped me the most."
Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who sent a second-round draft pick for Vrabel and quarterback Matt Cassel before the 2009 season, called Vrabel a winner.
"His genuine love for the game, his preparation, his work ethic, leadership and dependability are qualities you want from every player," Pioli said. "He is a champion in every sense of the word and I'm confident all of these qualities will make him a great coach. I cannot overstate my respect for him as a person and a football player."
Vrabel lettered from 1993-96 at Ohio State when John Cooper was the head coach. He was a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year. As a senior in high school in Akron, his host on his official recruiting visit to Ohio State was Fickell.
"Mike is something that our kids obviously emulate," Fickell said. "They want to be like him and what he's done here at Ohio State, what he's done in the NFL and obviously what he's done later in life as a father and husband. It's a great role model."
Active in the NFL Players Association's executive committee and its negotiations with the league, Vrabel said he was unsure if he would have retired if there were no lockout going on in the pros.
He also conceded that he had grown tired of gearing up for another new season.
"I just came to the point where I couldn't train to prepare for an NFL season. I'm not going to pretend I can do it anymore," he said. "This is where I want to be."
While with the Patriots in 2007 he had 54 solo tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and forced four fumbles and was selected to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams for the only time in his career. He finished with 742 tackles and 57 sacks in 206 games.
He was also known during his Patriots days as a short-yardage or goal-line fullback/tight end. He caught 10 career passes - every one going for a touchdown.
Fickell said he consulted several people about the pitfalls of hiring a close friend.
"(Vrabel) said to me, `Give me a reason to retire,"' Fickell said. "I remember going to (Ohio State men's basketball) coach (Thad) Matta and asking him, `Can you hire your best friend?' He knew what I was talking about. He said very clearly, `Yes, you make sure you set the standards and the guidelines of what you need to have done."'
Vrabel has had at least two skirmishes with the law. During his Ohio State playing days, he was arrested along with a teammate for beating up a man in a bar parking lot in Kent, Ohio. They eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct, paid a fine and performed 30 hours of community service. Their attorney in that case was Chris Cicero, the Columbus lawyer and former Ohio State walk-on who sent emails to Tressel in April 2010 that players were taking improper benefits from a tattoo-parlor owner.
Just this past April, Vrabel was arrested for theft from an Indiana riverboat casino. The charge will be dropped if he isn't charged with another crime for 180 days, according to a diversion agreement signed in late June.
Ohio State has been through a tumultuous last few months. Five players were suspended last December for the first five games of the upcoming season for taking cash and discounted tattoos from a Columbus businessman. Ohio State later discovered Cicero's emails to Tressel. Tressel was required by his contract and NCAA rules to report any possible violations involving his players, yet he did not report anything to his superiors for more than nine months. Shortly after he was pressured to step down, star quarterback Terrelle Pryor - one of the suspended players - gave up his senior season for a shot at playing in the NFL.
In a related matter, a source close to the Ohio State program has disclosed that Dorian Bell, a linebacker from Monroeville, Pa., was also handed a five-game suspension last week by the NCAA. Bell, a redshirt sophomore, had already been suspended for the entire 2011 season by Tressel for an undisclosed violation of team policy.



Kyle Kalis now headed to Michigan

Ohio State has lost its top 2012 football recruit to Michigan, as offensive tackle Kyle Kalis switched his commitment to the Wolverines last weekend.
Kalis, of St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 306 pounds and is considered one of the nation's top offensive line recruits. He's ranked 140th overall and 20th at his position in the ESPNU 150.
The only member of Ohio State's 2012 recruiting class ranked in the ESPNU 150, Kalis decommitted in June.
"I can't go there (Ohio State) and take penalties for something I never did," Kalis told ESPN.com on Monday. "Ohio State is a great program. I'm just not sure how long it will take them to recover. I want a solid, grounded coaching staff with a safe environment. Where there aren't such tough questions."
Kalis said although he is an Ohio State fan and has had "constant stress and anxiety" from the community about his decision, it's the best choice for him.

"I believe the Michigan-Ohio border is now open. I think you're going to see eight or nine guys from the state of Ohio going over to Michigan this year.
”-- Michigan recruit Kyle Kalis


"When I de-committed to (Ohio State coach) Luke Fickell I called him and told him and he understood where I'm coming from," Kalis said. "With the turmoil and uncertainty I just couldn't."
Kalis said he visited Michigan last weekend and called coach Brady Hoke from the "M" logo at the middle of the field at Michigan Stadium to inform him he was coming to Ann Arbor.
"He is the type of guy I want to play for," Kalis said. "(Hoke) has an incredible amount of passion. I believe the Michigan-Ohio border is now open. I think you're going to see eight or nine guys from the state of Ohio going over to Michigan this year."
Kalis nearly ended his commitment to Ohio State in late May, after Jim Tressel resigned, before a conversation with Fickell changed his mind.



Mike Vrabel injects optimism for Ohio State

It obviously has been a rough couple of months for Ohio State, from Jim Tressel's resignation to Terrelle Pryor's departure to some disappointing news on the recruiting front.
But Buckeyes fans could celebrate Monday after hearing the official word that former player and Super Bowl hero Mike Vrabel has joined Luke Fickell's staff as linebackers coach.
There's nothing not to like about this move from an Ohio State perspective. Vrabel, a former two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, played 14 seasons in the NFL and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. He was respected enough as a leader that he was closely involved from in the NFL negotiations over a new labor contract as a member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee.
"He is something for our kids to emulate," Fickell said. "They want to be like him, with what he's done here at Ohio State, what he's done in the NFL and what he's done later in life with his family as a father and husband."
Few people know Vrabel as well as Fickell, who hosted Vrabel on his recruiting visit to Ohio State. The two later roomed together as Buckeyes teammates. They are so close that Fickell said he asked other coaches, including Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta, about whether there would be any problems hiring your best friend to work for you. He said the responses were all overwhelmingly in favor of it.
"Sometimes it's great to have somebody come in the door ... and give you true, honest feedback," Fickell said. "Somebody who has your back and your best interests at heart, but who knows you well enough to stand up and say, 'All right, this is wrong.'"
Fickell might well need such a trusted sounding board during his first season as head coach, especially with all the distractions that might potentially come up in Columbus in the fall. Vrabel might not have official coaching experience, but he played the role of quasi-coach the past two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"That was a young football team, and it was a great role for me not only helping them on the field but in the locker room and in the film room," he said. "The last two years, I was really coaching guys who were 21, 22 years old and fresh out of college."
Vrabel is the son of a coach who said he always envisioned coming back to coach the Buckeyes. Fickell used to tease him that the dream had passed when Vrabel signed big pro contracts. But Vrabel always assured him that the plan remained the same.
This offseason, the NFL veteran knew the time had arrived to follow that plan. He said he could no longer train the way he wanted to get ready for the grind of a pro season.
"If there was another coach here, I'd still want to be at Ohio State," he said. "But it makes it interesting and fun, I guess, that a guy you played with is leading this team."
Vrabel said he would suggest to players techniques and ideas that he used during his career. But he also said he would defer to Fickell and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.
And although Fickell said Vrabel has "instant credibility" with the players and recruits because of his name recognition, don't expect Vrabel to be flashing his bling in prospects' homes.
"The only people who want to wear Super Bowl rings are the ones who never won one," he said. "I don't anticipate putting three rings on and going out on a recruiting trip. My fingers aren't really much for rings, anyway."
Vrabel's talent, energy and character are what led to those Super Bowl rings. That's what he will bring to Ohio State. After a rough few months, his arrival gives Buckeyes fans something to cheer.

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