COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Mike Kudla, a star defensive end who played on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, has died. He was 34.
The northeastern Ohio school district where he played in high school posted on Twitter on Monday that he died Sunday. The cause was not disclosed.
Kudla was named first-team All-Big Ten and Ohio State’s most valuable player on defense in 2005. In his final college game, he set a Fiesta Bowl record with three sacks to help the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame. He finished his college career with 91 tackles and 14.5 sacks.
“Mike Kudla was a special young man,” former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said in a statement. “His love of family, OSU and country was so strong. Our heart aches for the Kudla family, his friends, teammates, and entire Buckeye Nation.”
Kudla was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent but was released in 2006 after sustaining a hamstring injury that ultimately ended his pro career.
He came back to Ohio State in 2012 to be managing director of development for the university’s business school. Most recently he operated a company that develops medical facilities.
Highland Local Schools in Medina, south of Cleveland, said Kudla had been working with the NFL on protocols for CTE, the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Former teammate Dustin Fox, in a tweet, called Kudla “one of baddest dudes I’ve ever played with, but also one of the most kind and genuine guys you could ever meet.”