Recruiting Flashback: Mike Vrabel

As National Signing Day approaches, will look back at recruiting profiles of several former Ohio State stars. Next up is New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, whose profile originally appeared in the Oct. 10, 1992, issue of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.

Mike Vrabel of Stow (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit High School had an impressive junior season racking up 70 tackles and four sacks at inside linebacker.

Those were pretty good numbers for any high school linebacker trying to make an impression on college scouts, but making those numbers even more impressive is the fact they represent only seven games of work for the 6-5, 240-pound Vrabel.

He missed the first three games of the 1991 season with a stress fracture in his back, an injury that occurred sometime during the summer.

"I don't even know how it happened," Vrabel said.

There was a point last season at which he was unsure he would ever be able to play football again. But after consultation with several doctors, he was told his back would heal normally and he would be able to return to the gridiron.

"Once I got the OK from the doctors that I couldn't hurt it any more, I didn't worry about it," Vrabel said.

He was filled with a back brace at the Cleveland Clinic and he wore it throughout the season, but only in practice.

"The brace covered my entire back from my underarms to my hips," Vrabel said. "There was no way I could have been effective in games while wearing it; so I only wore it in practice."

Despite missing those first few games and playing with the bad back, Vrabel showed enough talent to warrant mention on several preseason All-American teams, including one published by national recruiting expert Tom Lemming. Other recruiting services tout Vrabel's abilities as well.

"Mike compares favorably to Ohio State's recruit of last year, Jayson Gwinn, but is bigger and stronger," reports Prep Football Prospects of Ohio. "He is a good open-field tackler with outstanding strength and agility."

Ohio Football Recruiting News adds, "Mike is an outstanding college prospect at a number of positions. He is exceptionally quick, had good straight-ahead speed and is very tough."

With all of his success in his injury-shortened junior season, colleges are lining up to see what Vrabel will do as a senior.

His top choices among colleges are Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, UCLA and Notre Dame. He has attended the Michigan summer camp the last two years, earning recognition as a tight end in 1991 and an inside linebacker in 1992.

But just because he attended camp in Ann Arbor does not necessarily mean he will attend college there.

"I want to keep an open mind," Vrabel said. "The only visits I have scheduled so far are to Ohio State and Michigan. I'm looking for a good football school with the ability to balance academics with athletics. By no means have I made up my mind yet.

"I'm planning to major in physical therapy and get into sports medicine. I volunteered at Children's Hospital this summer, and I like being around medicine and athletics.

"As far as football is concerned, I want to earn my degree and I was to be able to contribute to the program and benefit myself as well. But I'm going to college with getting a degree in mind. With the high school I go to, every teacher and coach stresses education, and that's how it should be."

With national signing day still more than four months away, he admits the pressure of recruiting is getting more intense every day.

"I've handled it pretty well. It's been bad lately," he said. "Every night, I get three or four calls. But I try to take it all as it comes. It's nice to get away, though, and get on the field with my teammates. There, we try to keep it quiet. Nobody makes a big deal about it.

"I would say before the first of the year, I'd like to have a pretty good idea of where I'm going to go."

Stow Walsh Jesuit head coach Gerry Rardin said that no matter what college team earned Vrabel's commitment, it would get an excellent young man.

"Mike's a great person, that's number one," Rardin said. "He's a great team player and a great individual to be around. As a player, he's outstanding. There's not many like him. He's fast, aggressive, strong; just a great kid."

After almost losing Vrabel for good last season, Rardin decided to use him only on defense to avoid a greater possibility of injury. This year, though, Vrabel has returned to double duty as a linebacker and tight end.

College scouts can't really decide where Vrabel would be better at defensive end, inside linebacker, tight end, or, if he fills out some more even defensive tackle. He said he really doesn't care what position he plays in the future.

"Right now, all I care about is helping this team win," he said. "The team just wants to make the playoffs. Personally, I want to live up to all these expectations. If I do that, I've pretty much accomplished all I can accomplish."

Rardin figures that if Vrabel accomplishes all he can accomplish, the Warriors should be in good shape for the 1992 season.

"Mike is the team captain and is an excellent leader," he said. "We've had kids that are great leaders because of their athletic ability, but Mike would still be a leader if he had half of his athletic ability. He's earned the respect of all the kids on the team and in school."

NAME – Mike Vrabel
SCHOOL – Stow (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit
POSITION – Inside linebacker, tight end
HEIGHT, WEIGHT – 6-5, 240 pounds
BENCH PRESS – 350 pounds
40-YARD DASH TIME – 4.8 seconds
COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS – Scored 20 on the ACT, 950 on the SAT
VITAL STATISTICS – Named to Tom Lemming's preseason All-American team despite playing only seven games last season, Registered 70 tackles and four sacks after missing the first three games with a stress fracture in his back. Has played a variety of positions in high school, but most college scouts project him as a defensive player, either at defensive end or inside linebacker. Took third at state track meet in shot put last year with a throw of 56-9.
COACH'S COMMENT – "Mike plays both ways and is so valuable to us that we consider him the cornerstone of our defense at linebacker and the cornerstone of our offense at tight end. Also, he's a natural-born leader. We've had kids that are great leaders because of their athletic ability, but Mike would still be a leader if he had half of his athletic ability." – Stow Walsh Jesuit head coach Gerry Rardin.
HOBBIES – Golf, outdoor activities
SCHOOLS INTERESTED IN – Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, UCLA and Notre Dame

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