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Mike Vrabel (Michael George Vrabel) was born on August 14, 1975 in Akron, Ohio. After going to high school at Walsh Jesuit (Stowe, OH), Vrabel attended Ohio State University. Vrabel made his professional debut in the NFL in 1997 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has played for the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of his 10 year career.
Most people believe that 2003 was Mike Vrabel's best year, as he recorded 9.5 sacks.
After attending Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, he played defensive end at Ohio State University, where he hopes to coach after his playing career is over. He was a pre-med major and graduated with a bachelors degree. He was named to the Ohio State Football All-Century Team.
Vrabel spent the first four seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, where his most notable play was a sack of Drew Bledsoe in the 1997-1998 AFCDivisional Playoffs that clinched a 7-6 win for the Steelers. Nevertheless, Vrabel was a backup for the Steelers throughout his tenure there, and had considered retirement before he signed with the Patriots.
Almost immediately upon joining the Patriots, Vrabel became a major player in the defense: he played in every game his first season in New England, and started all but four of them.
Vrabel exemplifies the versatility sought by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick: in addition to his work as a linebacker, Vrabel frequently checks in as a tight end in short-yardage situations, which makes him an eligible receiver. Belichick took advantage of this in Super Bowl XXXVIII in the fourth quarter, Brady threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Vrabel, making Vrabel the first defensive player to score a touchdown on offense since William "Refrigerator" Perry did so for the Bears against the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986. Vrabel was one of the defensive stars in that game as well; he had two sacks (one forcing a fumble) of Carolina's Jake Delhomme, and was a contender for the Super Bowl MVP award that went to Brady.
Despite Brady's penchant for throwing to Vrabel in such situations, teams are often unable to cover Vrabel properly: in Super Bowl XXXIX, Vrabel caught a 2-yard touchdown pass, despite being held by Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse. The reception makes him one of 17 players to catch two or more touchdown passes in Super Bowls.
As of December 2005, Vrabel has had eight career receptions (six in the regular season), all with the Patriots, and all for 1- or 2-yard touchdowns. According to the website Cold Hard Football Facts, no other player in NFL history has as good a record of converting receptions to touchdowns.
On December 26, 2005, on the final Monday Night Football game on ABC, Vrabel became, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first player—since the official recording of sacks began in 1982—to have two touchdown catches and a sack in the same game.
Though Vrabel had always played right outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme, the 2005 season saw a major change in Vrabel's positioning. He began the year at outside linebacker, but, because of the limited effectiveness of inside backers Monty Beisel and Chad Brown, Vrabel began playing inside linebacker, a position he had never before played in the NFL. By the time Tedy Bruschi had returned from injury, he and Vrabel were the two men starting inside. Rosevelt Colvin successfully filled Vrabel's old spot, and many cite the change in positions as a major contributor to the Patriots' rebound in the second half of the season.
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