As expected, that after 14 years in the NFL — eight with the Patriots — linebacker Mike Vrabel announced his retirement from the NFL this morning.
He will coach linebackers at his alma mater, Ohio State.
Vrabel’s statement, via ProFootballTalk.com:
“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.”
Vrabel won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots. There were more talented and better players on those teams, but probably no one outside of receiver Troy Brown embodied the Patriots’ unselfish team-first spirit that would lead them to such great heights more than Vrabel. Not only did he shift positions on defense to help where and when the team was weak, he caught 12 touchdown passes in his career (two in Super Bowls) as a tight end.
Vrabel was a football player, plain and simple. There is no higher compliment than that.
“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 the statement released by Ohio State. “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.”
Pioli, the current general manager of the Chiefs, has released a statement:
“It was an honor and a privilege to be on the same team with Mike for 10 seasons. Mike was a great college player that came into the NFL as a third-round pick and role player. Eventually, he made himself a starter and a champion. It’s no coincidence that Mike won championships everywhere he played – from his time at Ohio State to his role in division titles on three NFL teams.
“His genuine love for the game, his preparation, his work ethic, leadership and dependability are qualities you want from every player. 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. If there were a Hall of Champions, Mike Vrabel would be a first ballot selection. ”
And here is Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Vrabel:
“Mike Vrabel was a key contributor to the most successful era in Patriots franchise history and I will forever be grateful. His performance in Super Bowl XXXVIII was MVP worthy and his touchdowns in back-to-back Super Bowls helped us win three championships in four years. 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. I am thrilled for Mike and his family that his first coaching opportunity allows him to return home to coach at his alma mater, a school that he has always passionately supported. I am sure this is a dream come true for Mike and will be the start of a long and successful coaching career at Ohio State. I know I’ll be rooting for him. Mike is a true Patriot.”