As such, the former Patriots star and current Ohio State defensive line coach probably has the best viewpoint from which to judge New England sixth-round pick Nate Ebner.
Ebner is of course the world-class rugby player who walked on for the Buckeyes football team. By the end of his time in Columbus he was a key special team presence and leader for the Ohio State squad. Add in an impressive Pro Day, and he earned himself a draft spot in New Englnad.
Beginning this week Ebner will be at Gillette Stadium trying to prove he has what it takes to make it in the NFL. Vrabel not only thinks that Ebner has a chance to make it as a core special teamer at the professional level, but that given the hours he'll have now to devote to the craft that he may even develop as a contributor on defense.
"I think if they're looking to develop a talented player into something that they think can play a bunch of different spots, then I think it's the right fit. I hope it's the right fit," Vrabel said of Ebner landing in his own former NFL home. "Certainly the way they develop people, the coaching staff's ability and understanding how to develop a talented player that maybe doesn't know all the techniques, doesn't have all the experience, they've proven it's a good place to start in New England."
While Ebner is just starting his career in Foxborough, he's finishing up a time at Ohio State that ended with him as one of the most respected members of the at times troubled program. Nothing showed that respect more than Ebner being chosen to carry the flag and lead his team out onto the field last season during a special ceremony to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
"He just led because of his style of play," Vrabel said. "People respected it. Our players respected the way he played the game. He was a major contributor. Now people look at that and say, 'well how many touchdowns did he have or how many interceptions or how many sacks?' People who know football don't look at it like that. They look at the contributions that he made on special teams and on the practice field and in class and his work ethic. He was a major contributor for our football team."
Clearly Vrabel is pulling for his former pupil turned Patriot, who he expects to be a fan favorite from day one in New England.
"I would hope he's going to work as hard and hopefully he becomes as savvy as Larry Izzo on special teams and he can find a way to block punts and find a way to cover and do a lot of those things," Vrabel concluded.
To read more of Vrabel's thought's on Ebner and a profile of each of New England's draft picks, check out the current issue of Patriots Football Weekly that's on newsstands now. To subscribe call 1-800-494-PATS or go to PFWonline.com.