Badgers' Fickell hopes Vrabel can be around team

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Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell told ESPN on Thursday that he’s hoping to have Mike Vrabel, his best friend and former teammate, “around as much as possible” with the team in an informal role the upcoming season.

Vrabel was fired by the Tennessee Titans last month and did not land an NFL job in this year’s hiring cycle. Vrabel and Fickell were teammates at Ohio State and coached together there as assistants.

“I love Mike and want him around as much as possible,” Fickell told ESPN. “I want to see how much he’d like to be around, in the spring for sure. And we’ll go from there.”

Fickell joked with ESPN that he’s not intimidated by Vrabel’s 6-foot-4 frame, laughing as he referenced an anonymous quote to The Athletic that Vrabel’s physical presence could be intimidating to someone in an organization.

Fickell is a former nose tackle at Ohio State. Vrabel played linebacker there and the two have remained close both personally and professionally since their time there in the 1990s.

It’s common in college football and in the NFL for coaches who are out of work to go spend time with friends and colleagues to offer opinions and an extra set of eyes.

Fickell first mentioned Vrabel’s potential presence in a radio interview this week.

“I talked to him, I think, on Saturday, and we hadn’t communicated for probably a week or so just because the process was going,” Fickell said during an interview with ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch.” “He sounded like a new man. And I’m not sure exactly if this was his choice, or what it is the future looks like. But I know that we’re going to have a visitor here that’s going to spend a little bit of time, hopefully around us. Starting, coming up in the spring and some things like that, see how much, how deep we can get involved with my buddy and get him around here.”

Fickell went 7-6 in his first season at Wisconsin. He led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff in 2020.

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