John Cooper, Mike Vrabel’s head coach at Ohio State, offered a pretty good epitaph for his 14-year NFL career and a benediction for his college coaching career that begins in Columbus this week as the Buckeyes linebackers coach.
“I was surprised he quit. I thought he had one or two years left because he was playing well in Kansas City the past couple of years,” said Cooper, even though Vrabel turns 36 next month. “He’s smart, instinctive, tough, and as good as any competitor I was around up there.
“He’ll be a good coach. But he’ll have to get used to the hours. The pros are used to coming in at eight and leaving at five. College coaches come in at 6 in the morning and leave at 10 at night. No question he’ll help them. As a player or as a coach. He’ll certainly be an excellent in-state recruiter for them.”
The news broke on the weekend Derek Jeter became the first Yankee to get 3,000 hits and it’s not a bad comparison, is it? No question Jeter is the better player, a first-ballot Hall of Famer while Vrabel is borderline at best.
But If Jeter has never been an MVP, Vrabel was only named to one Pro Bowl, in 2007. Both were key leaders on dynasties with talent that could get overlooked by their intangibles. Both were the blue-collar representatives of teams that won on old-school fundamentals. Both had the knack of coming up with their best in the most enormous of games.
Yet Vrabel has a bigger personality. He’s never been a shrinking violet, whether it was giving the owners a piece of his mind early on in these CBA negotiations, or earning enough respect to tweak Patriots owner Bob Kraft about the revenue for the mall at Patriot Place.
“He’s got his own opinions and his own thoughts, I know that,” Cooper said. “He was a very intelligent player for us.”
Cooper, a scouting consultant for the Bengals, says Vrabel is a lot like his former college teammate and the new Buckeyes head coach, Luke Fickell.
“Very passionate,” Cooper said. “The one thing I remember about Mike Vrabel is he never took a play off.”
Vrabel made his mark as the most versatile player in Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s work bench of versatile tools that pounded out three Super Bowl titles in four seasons with remarkable precision from 2001-2005. Vrabel played outside linebacker and inside linebacker and ignited the upset over the Rams for their first Super Bowl title when he ran by former Bengals left tackle Rod Jones to plaster quarterback Kurt Warner and create Ty Law’s interception return for a touchdown.
He also caught 10 TD passes as a tight end, one against the Bengals, a one-yard flip from Tom Brady for the Pats’ first touchdown in what would be New England’s 34-13 win on a Monday night in 2007.
Tags: John Cooper, Mike Vrabel
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