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How Mike Vrabel’s time at Ohio State helped prepare him to be an NFL head coach

The former Buckeye player and assistant is enjoying his first NFL Combine as a head coach.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After years of rising up the ranks as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots and then with the Houston Texans, it was only a matter of time before former Ohio State football player and eventual assistant coach Mike Vrabel would end up with his own head coaching gig. He finally got that opportunity following the 2017 season, when he was hired on to lead the Tennessee Titans.

Vrabel is attending his first NFL Combine as the head coach of an NFL team, and he’s embracing the opportunities that opens up in regards to meeting with players and media. Despite attending the past few years, Vrabel said that in terms of observations and analysis, it was pretty similar to years past. However, he added that the biggest difference was having to give a press conference and do media interviews.

During his time with the media on Wednesday, the new head coach talked about the importance of getting face-to-face time with prospects.

“This is the best part of the job, when you can actually talk to players. That’s why you coach. You don’t coach to hang out with other coaches. That doesn’t excite me at all.”

The Buckeye has always been a players’ coach, and he earned the respect of Buckeye Nation when he joined the coaching staff during the #TattooGate fiasco in 2011. During his first press conference as the Titans new head coach, Vrabel even talked about his interview with Urban Meyer, and how it went so badly that he was actually asked to do it again. Thankfully, Meyer saw his potential, and Vrabel has since embraced learning how to be a teacher to his players.

“You better have a teaching style that’s able to stimulate them, as well as get your message across to them in different ways. Understanding that they learn differently – some guys need walkthroughs, some guys love to watch film, some guys love to get on the board. I think that was the thing that I learned the most at Ohio State.”

His commitment to the game and to his players goes well beyond what happens on the field and in the locker room. Vrabel is personally invested in bettering the people around him, and takes his responsibility to do so very seriously.

“I enjoy having interactions with players, trying to make them better, trying to make them better people, trying to make them better husbands and fathers, trying to share the lessons that I’ve learned along the way, help through the mistakes or pitfalls or issues that they come across as a player.”

The head coach noted on Wednesday that this draft class is particularly important, given his time on the recruiting trail for Ohio State.

“I was at a lot of these guys’ high schools, I was in a lot of these guys’ homes, I recruited a lot of these players. Just because this is kind of the window, four years since I’ve been at Ohio State, this is that fifth year, so there’s a lot of guys that as they’re coming through the interview process, that I saw in high school.”

This may be Vrabel’s first chance as a head coach, but he’s had some of the best mentors a guy could hope for to prepare him for the position. Aside from the obvious influence of Bill Belichick — both to Vrabel as a player and assistant — the new Titans coach also cited being “lucky to play for John Cooper at Ohio State” and getting “to work under and for Urban Meyer” as meaningful moments to get him to where he is now.