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Interview: Catching up with ‘The Big Kat’ Andy Katzenmoyer

One of OSU’s greatest players looks back on his career — and forward to the 2021 season

Ohio State Buckeyes vs Missouri Tigers
Andy Katzenmoyer lines up against Missouri, Sept. 27, 1997.

They called him “The Big Kat” – and for good reason. As college linebackers go, Katzenmoyer was huge. His NFL Combine stats list him as 6-3, 258 lbs., the weight ranking him in the 98th percentile at his position. And he was quick, like a cat. His 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash put him in the 82nd percentile at his position. Andy’s 39” vertical jump and his 4.1 pro agility rating indicated his agility and athleticism. This combination of size, speed, and agility made Andy elite. The intensity he joined with his natural talents made him one of a kind, totally unique.

Katzenmoyer was a prize recruit for the Buckeyes when he came out of Westerville South (Ohio) High School in 1996. And his impact on the team was immediate. Andy was named Big Ten Freshman of the year for the 1996 season and was the first Ohio State linebacker to start the first game of his freshman season.

An All American both his sophomore and junior years, Katzenmoyer became the Buckeyes’ first Butkus Award winner in 1997 and was All Big Ten each of the three years that he played. His accumulated stats are impressive, indeed: 256 total tackles, 197 solo tackles, 50 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 6 interceptions. But the numbers tell only a partial story. The Big Kat owned any football field he played on. He was all over the field. Always on the ball. Hitting ferociously hard. Terrifying the opponent. He was something.

Katzenmoyer played on great John Cooper-coached Ohio State teams, which went a combined 32-5 during his three years as a player. 1998, his final season as a Buckeye, started off with a loud bang, as Andy graced the cover of the August 31, College Football Preview issue of Sports Illustrated. Both the linebacker and the team were flying high. The caption next to Katzenmoyer’s photo read: “Ohio State is #1, if Andy Katzenmoyer Makes the Grade.” Well, he earned an A+ for the season, and the SI prediction was nearly on the mark. The Bucks were ranked #1 all season until a four-point, November loss to Michigan State likely cost them the national championship, as they recovered from that defeat to beat Michigan and then Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl.

Drafted in the first round (28th overall pick) by the New England Patriots, Katzenmoyer put up big numbers again, albeit in a pro career cut sadly short by injury. Andy played in 24 NFL games, starting 14 of them. He collected 101 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a Super Bowl Championship ring for the Pats’ win over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Everyone who follows college football – certainly not just Buckeye fans – remembers Andy Katzenmoyer. LGHL caught up with Andy, now 43, and got his take on a number of topics.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs Missouri Tigers
On the sidelines, 1997.

LGHL: Coming out of Westerville South High School in 1996, you were regarded as one of the top defensive players (at any position) in the country. You must have been recruited by everybody, but, as essentially a Columbus native, did you consider committing to any school other than Ohio State?

Katzenmoyer: Yes. Despite being recruited by most schools across the country, it really came down to 3 schools that I was interested in attending. Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State. All three schools have had an excellent football tradition, especially at the linebacker position and all three ran the same defensive scheme but I chose OSU because I felt that I had the greatest opportunity for success. Plus, growing up in Central Ohio, I grew up a huge fan of the Buckeyes.

LGHL: Apparently, you wore #45 in high school. At OSU, that number was worn by two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin and had been retired. There’s a story that Archie went to your home and personally offered you #45 if you’d become a Buckeye. True?

Katzenmoyer: I asked to wear 45 after I had signed my letter of intent. Coach Cooper called me a week later and told me that Archie said he was fine with me wearing 45. I would have understood if Archie would have said no, but knowing Archie, that isn’t the kind of man he is.

LGHL: What was it like playing for your hometown team, always in front of family and friends?

Katzenmoyer: It was awesome! My family was able to attend all my games both home and away. I was also able to stay close to many of my high school friends that attended OSU.

LGHL: At Ohio State, you played on three great teams; two of them, in fact, 1996 and 1998, ranked #2 in the final AP polls, both going 11-1 for the season. What are some of your best – and worst — memories about those teams? Do any games particularly stand out?

Katzenmoyer: I played on 3 great teams. Only losing 5 games in 3 years in that era of Big 10 football is something to be proud of. Each and every week, we faced some of the best football players in the country. There are too many great memories to list! There is only one play that I wish I could redo. It was during the 1997 Michigan game. Late in the 4th quarter, we were down. It was 3rd and long and we knew that Michigan liked to run a screen pass to their tailback. The defensive call had me covering the TB in man to man. I read the play, slipped the blocker that Michigan had for me, saw the ball being thrown and thought I could pick the ball off. The ball floated more than I expected and I was only able to get a fingertip on the ball. Tipping the ball away but that close to a pick 6!

LGHL: On those Ohio State teams, many of your teammates, in addition to you, became Buckeye legends. Guys like David Boston, Joe Germaine, Luke Fickell, Antoine Winfield, Mike Vrabel. What do you remember about playing alongside them?

Katzenmoyer: I did have some amazing teammates. I was able to learn something from everyone that I played with. Whether it was something like in season prep, out of season prep, how to practice, how to play a game, and most importantly, how to compete every day.

LGHL: Personally at OSU, you accomplished about everything that a linebacker could: you started every game (even as a freshman), you were all Big-Ten all three years that you played, you were twice All-American, you won the Butkus Award for outstanding linebacker – the first Ohio State player to do so. Your stats for tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions are all jaw-dropping. Of all of these feats, what are you proudest of?

Katzenmoyer: I am most proud of beating Michigan in my last game in the shoe along with winning the Rose Bowl my freshman year and the Sugar Bowl my Junior year.

LGHL: You were selected in the first round (28th overall) of the 1999 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. We all know that, after a great couple of years, including a Super Bowl victory in 2002, an injury cut short your pro career. But I’m sure that you had a good sense of what pro football was all about. In what ways does it differ from the college game?

Katzenmoyer: For me, the speed and ability of the players I played against didn’t surprise me as the Big Ten had some amazing talent. The biggest adjustment was the pre snap process and communication while also trying to learn the new terminology.

LGHL: What are you up to these days?

Katzenmoyer: I am happily married to my wife Tricia and we have 3 children, Griffin, Avery and Ava and I sell insurance for Hosket Ulen Insurance Solutions.

LGHL: What’s your prediction for the 2021 version of the Buckeyes as they approach the beginning of the season? Are they going to be hurting at linebacker?

Katzenmoyer: I think OSU will have a great season. Like most years, they lose some great players and they have to reload. I expect them to be playing in the Big Ten Championship and make the playoffs.