New Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel returned Friday to Ohio State, the place where he set sack records, became an All-American, was named Big Ten defensive lineman of the year twice, and — perhaps most important at this point — where he learned how to do a job interview.
His first coaching stint came under Luke Fickell in 2011, but that was to help his friend and school when both were dealing with turmoil due to an NCAA investigation. When Urban Meyer was named coach in November 2011, Vrabel had to go through a real interview. As he recalled Friday at the Ohio State football coaches clinic, he blew it.
Meyer gave him another chance, and the next day he did well enough to keep his job. Two years later, he moved to the NFL as an assistant for the Houston Texans, and the rest is developing history.
>> Video: Mike Vrabel, Kerry Coombs -- Titans now, made Ohio State homecoming"
“Just because you played this game or do something (such as being a 14-year pro who earned three Super Bowl rings with New England), every day you’ve got to try to prove your value to the team, make sure you’re prepared,” Vrabel said in describing what he learned from that initial experience with Meyer. “And just don’t take things for granted.”
Vrabel wasn’t afraid to take a leap in 2014 with the Texans. And he talked Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs into doing it when he hired him for the Titans’ new staff.
“When you leave and you make the decision to pick up two kids and a wife — you thought you’d live in Columbus for the rest of your life — it’s cool to come back,” Vrabel said of Friday’s homecoming. “It’s cool to come back in this position to try to help coaches in this state who come to the clinic, and certainly help coach Meyer and his staff in any way I can.”
Coombs came back with Vrabel, and at the end, he found himself in a familiar spot, surrounded by OSU defensive backs. As they parted there were handshakes and hugs all around.
“I miss them, I love those kids,” Coombs said. “I feel responsible for them and I am eager for their success. I think that’s going to be one of the best units in the country and I’m really looking fired up for them.”
Yet diving into the NFL, Coombs is completing a coaching journey that started in high schools and progressed to Ohio State.
“My feet aren’t hitting the ground,” Coombs said. “I’m excited every day to go to work. I’m working for a great man and a great organization, and in a great town. I miss Columbus, I miss Urban, I miss those players, I miss everything about Ohio State. But I am also very, very excited about my future.”