Mike Vrabel, Steelers Linebacker, 1997-2000
First, can you let readers know about the 2nd and 7 Foundation – how it got started and what your role is with the organization?
Ryan Miller, a former teammate at Ohio State came up with the idea as a way to give back after our time together at school. My involvement was very high until recently when I began coaching.
Why did you choose to align yourself with this particular cause, and how can readers help support the organization?
We were very familiar with the right to read week after participating in it through Ohio State as players and we were comfortable going into second grade classrooms with books. We eventually decided to write out own series of books to read and give to each child. People can contribute online at secondandseven.com, or just check out the website and spread the word.
You’re now the Linebacker Coach for the Houston Texans after having coached at your alma mater, Ohio State. What about coaching do you enjoy and what coaching lessons from your time in the NFL do you find yourself falling back on most as a coach, and why?
Coaching is about being a great teacher. If I can find ways to connect to my players, they have the ability to be successful. If they have success on the field, I am a good teacher. If they struggle, I am a bad coach. You see what you coach.
A defensive lineman in college, you were drafted by the Steelers in the third round in ’97 to be a 3-4 OLB. With players like Lloyd, Gildon, Emmons, and Conley already there, were you worried about your ability to break into the lineup as you learned the OLB position in the NFL, and how difficult was that learning process for you?
The process was difficult, but I never worried about failure. I concentrated on finding ways to add value to the team. I tried to make the team feel like they needed me to in order to be successful.
Who were the players on the team that helped mentor you as a younger player and helped you make that adjust to linebacker, and how did they do so? Any examples?
There were many great veterans in that Steeeler locker room, but some that stood out where Mark Bruener, Carnell Lake, “Money Dawson”, Will Woolford, Levone Kirkland, Greg Lloyd…. They provided not only support in the locker room but also an example as to how to prepare and play like a professional on the field.
Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples?
Jerome Bettis and Earl Holmes were two players that were able to keep the mood light in the locker room, but also had the ability to focus and play at a very high-level while we were in Pittsburgh together
After four seasons in Pittsburgh, you moved on to play for New England. What drove that decision for you and how difficult was it for you to make?
The decision to leave Pittsburgh was based solely on opportunity. The Patriots could provide me an opportunity to start and contribute on an every down basis and I knew what my role was going to be in Pittsburgh.
The decision was not very difficult as I knew I wanted more to my career than being a back up in the special-teams player.
You had a fourteen-year career as a player in the NFL. What do you attribute that longevity too and are you a proponent of the way the NFL over the past few season has changed the way the game is being played? Do you think that will help players extend their careers as well?
Longevity in the National Football League is attributed to a few things: one is ability; two is productivity; three is being prepared… and lastly I think there’s a little luck involved. I like to think I had all four.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would ask your readers to support our foundation by Not only visiting the secondandseven.com<http://secondandseven.com> website but also by helping us promote literacy throughout their community and encouraging kids to read and comprehend.