Fickell knew Vrabel would be successful


INDIANAPOLIS – Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell hired Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel for his first coaching job in 2011 after becoming Ohio State’s interim head coach following the forced departure of Jim Tressel.

Fickell said he’s not surprised at all that his former assistant coach, Ohio State teammate and longtime friend has moved up to the highest level of coaching.

“I never would doubt it. That’s the thing with that guy – whatever he was going to do it was going to be 120 miles per hour with 100 percent of everything,” Fickell said at Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday.

Fickell was allowed to hire one coach to fill the position left open when he was promoted to interim head coach in 2011.

At the time, Vrabel was a veteran of 14 seasons as a player in the NFL – four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, eight years with the New England Patriots and two years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“He was looking for a reason to retire. He always knew he was going to be a coach and he always knew there was going to have to be some segue into doing what he was going to do. He was never going to walk away,” Fickell said.

“It was a win in everybody’s book. I know it wasn’t a great time and I know some people can evaluate whether it was successful or not,” he said, referring to OSU’s 6-7 record in his one season as its head coach.

“Some of the successes I had, or at least the ability to stay upright, were because of the people around me and he was a big part of that. I’ve always been indebted to him for what he did for me and our alma mater. But it’s amazing how it’s gone. I never would have doubted him whatever he went into. It’s exciting to see.”

LACHEY READY FOR BIG SEASON: Luke Lachey, son of former Ohio State and NFL player Jim Lachey, led Iowa’s offense with four touchdown catches last season as a sophomore tight end.

The Hawkeyes are expecting Lachey to be more productive this season. At the first day of Big Ten Media Days on Wednesday, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “He’s one of the best (tight ends) in the country in my opinion.” Ferentz has been Iowa’s head coach for 25 seasons, the longest current streak by a major college football coach.

Asked why he has continued to coach so long, he said, “That’s what I like to do and nobody has told me to sit down yet.”

FLECK REJECTS ACCUSATIONS: Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck addressed some former players’ claim that there is a toxic atmosphere in the Gophers’ football program during his time at the lectern at Wednesday’s session of Big Ten Football Media Days.

“These allegations are baseless,” he said. “We have full support of our athletic director, Mark Coyle, and our university leadership. This is a similar story that gets peddled every single year, and the majority of the players have been dismissed or removed from our football team. We also have around a half dozen anonymous reporting avenues within our football program that players can go to if they have an issue.” – MEMORIES OF O.J.: Indiana coach Tom Allen says adding USC and UCLA to the Big Ten next year is “exciting” and “awesome.”

“In 2024, UCLA comes to us. In 2025, we go to California to play USC. The last time we played the Trojans, O.J. Simpson was the tailback,” Allen said.

The most recent Indiana-USC match-up, with Simpson in the backfield, was the 1968 Rose Bowl. USC won that game 14-3.

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