It had to happen, right? We had to dedicate an entire column to the newest, coolest verb in all of Houston history: Vrabeling.
Before we hit the actual definition, let’s take a look at the origins of coolness.
The Ohio high school standout out played defensive end at THE Ohio State University before joining the ranks of so many future NFL Hall of Fame linebackers drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Essentially, if Pittsburgh spends a high round draft pick on a linebacker, it’s a fairly safe bet they’re going to be good. Hence the nickname “Blitzburgh.”
While at the U, Vrabel compiled 34 sacks in just three years and landed Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year honors two years in a row. He made such an impact at the pro football factory that he was named to Ohio State’s All-Century Team in 2000 and was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 2012.
The legend grew.
With the 91st overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Vrabel as a linebacker. He rewarded Pittsburgh by sacking then New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the playoffs that season to end the Patriots’ run and keep the Steelers’ Super Bowl dreams alive.
Ironically, Vrabel continued his career with the Patriots and became the first defensive star to score an offensive touchdown in a Super Bowl since the Fridge did it for the Bears in 1985. Vrabel’s penchant for catching touchdowns grew, and by the time of his retirement, he held the highest touchdown-to-catch ratio in NFL history. Pretty good for a linebacker…
Vrabel retired with 740 total tackles, 57 sacks, 20 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions, and 10 touchdown catches. Oh, and three Super Bowl Championships.
The legend grew.
By 2011, Vrabel had retired and returned to the campus of OSU, this time to coach linebackers, which he did with excellence and intensity until moving to the defensive line. By 2014, Vrabel’s efforts had long since caught the attention of Romeo Crennel, who lobbied to bring him into the Texans’ coaching fraternity. Once his feet hit the floor in H-Town, Vrabel never looked back.
As we all know, Vrabel was promoted to Defensive Coordinator for our Houston Texans. Some speculate this move was made to prepare him to take over as head football coach should Bill O’Brien ride off into the sunset at the end of his five-year reign. While we haven’t polled the fans, I’d be willing to bet Vrabel as head coach would be applauded by most based on what he’s done with the players under his tutelage over the last three years.
The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson spoke with Vrabel when he was recently promoted and caught this insightful quote:
“I think you're always learning and trying to study the game and trying to understand schemes and concepts. The biggest thing in coaching is being able to reach your players.
The schemes can be great. The concepts can be great, but until you make that connection with your players and get them to believe they're getting better and they can see they're getting better and you're giving them ownership of the room and having conversations and dialogues.
That's been the biggest thing for me as a coach is trying to make a connection with the players. Once you can set the hook, you got their attention.”
So, what is the definition of Vrabeling? As on-the-nose as possible, it’s doing what Mike Vrabel does, bringing excellence to every situation with high energy and intense effort. It’s taking any situation and turning it on end until you find the angle that allows you to succeed. It’s taking a guy like Jadeveon Clowney, who had no business coming back from the horrible knee injury he sustained early in his career, and turning him into one of the most feared players in the game.
It’s being a legend and making that legend grow.
With guys like J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing, Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, D.J. Reader, Benardrick McKinney and Jadeveon Clowney in the mix, Vrabel’s star should shine bright this year, making his profile grow even more.
What do you think? How do you define Vrabeling? What’s your favorite moment of Coach Vrabel’s H-Town career? What do you think of when you hear his name? Where do you hope he lands in the Houston coaching pantheon when all is said and done?