The Ohio State University prides itself on the people, the tradition and the excellence of its athletics programs. Buckeye traditions and the excellence need no introduction. But how well do we know the people? Fans know players by the awe-inspiring feats they perform. Mask Off takes a closer look at those individuals as human beings.
Andy Katzenmoyer was the first true freshman linebacker ever to start for Ohio State. He was a three time All-Big Ten selection and consensus All-American. He was the Butkus Award winner and a first-round draft pick.
After three years and a Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots, Katzenmoyer left football. Through his college and professional career, Katzenmoyer battled a combination of the stratospheric expectation that he would re-define the linebacker position and the stereotype that he was a 'dumb jock.' By the time he was 25, Katzenmoyer was back in Westerville searching for meaning after the gridiron.
Katzenmoyer has largely avoided publicity. While many former athletes profiled in this series have found meaning in seeking 'what's next' on the national stage, Katzenmoyer has found it the simple pleasures of family, hard physical work and hometown life.
As the New York Times wrote: "After a bumpy road to a typical American life, Katzenmoyer has found serenity."
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Could you give the Eleven Warriors community and Buckeye Nation a quick rundown of what you’ve been up to since you left Ohio State?
I got drafted by New England back in ’99. Played there for three years. Had to retire due to a neck injury that I sustained my rookie year. From there, I couldn’t figure out what exactly to do. I ended up doing an internship with Ohio State’s football team back in 2002, 2003. I helped out in the weight room. That kind of led me into the field I’m currently in. Then, fast forward a handful of years, I open up a gym, finally, in 2008. And then, from there, I’ve just kept busy doing that.
What motivates you to keep training after football?
It’s funny, when I was playing football, I trained because I had to. I always enjoyed training, but I trained because I had to. When I retired, I went away for about a year, year-and-a-half. I ended up falling in love with lifting again for personal reasons, not for professional reasons.
Really it’s more about trying to stay healthy, to feel good, to keep my body as active and healthy as possible as I get older. And it’s a great stress reliever. I’m able to internalize a lot of things and put some frustrations into the barbell, into the weight, instead of some other places.
What is the best part of your day?
The best part of my day-to-day is being able to work with my wife. We spend – some couples can’t do this, but we’re able to – we spend a lot of time together. So that’s the best part of my day: enjoying our life together.
What, besides football, can you talk about for hours?
Well, at this point it is probably weight training [laughs].
What is your best football memory from Ohio State.
Quite a few… The thing that pops out is – there’s so much – we played Notre Dame my freshman year. It was the third game of the season. The two games before that were two home games, and we blew people out. Notre Dame at the time was a top-ten program. It was the first time – on the road, playing for Ohio State against a national powerhouse opponent – really finding myself to fit on that team. Before that, I still wasn’t sure despite whatever happened on the field. But that game… to me, everything slowed down after that point.
What is your best non-football memory from Ohio State?
I was able to live with a buddy of mine from high school. I was able to stay close to all my high school friends. Just the times that we were able to spend together hanging out outside of football. They really helped me 1) stay grounded and 2) forget about the stressers of playing at a big time program and being in such of fish bowl.
Do you have a best friend from the team or Buckeye Nation?
I have a lot of good friends that I played with. It’s crazy, there’s a lot of guys. One of my high school teammates ended up going to Ohio State as well. We were able to stay close. His number for 44, mine was 45. We had next-door lockers. He lived two houses down from me, so he was one of the guys I was able to stay close with through my playing days.
Jerry Rudzinski, Ryan Miller, Steve Bellisari.
It’s strange, but there are guys that you’re not necessarily close with, or you don’t think you’re close with, and you don’t realize how close you are to them. Does that make any sense to you?
We did a linebacker reunion this fall, and there were probably 30 guys there who came within a 10 to 15-year span. All of us had something we could relate to and get along with.
What was the linebacker reunion like?
It was put on by Ohio State. Ohio State reached out to a handful of guys. It was really kind of a cool thing. They brought guys from all the generations, and whoever could make it made it. They did a dinner get together
It was to honor me and James Laurinaitis – our anniversaries for being Butkus Award winners.
But it was very cool reminiscing about stories. Everyone has a different view. So many years after the fact, they have a difference remembrance of things that happened. Or they remember things that others had forgotten.
It was more just about getting together, shooting the shit, and having a good time. It was a fun, fun time. I think we were there together for maybe three or four hours.
A lot of peoples’ dream dinner would be the Ohio State linebacker reunion. If you could have dinner with any three people – alive, dead, fictional characters – who would they be?
Oh gosh... Anyone? Let me get back to you on that.
Aside from what you are doing now and playing football, what is your dream job?
I love helping people. If I could do anything – and make enough money to pay my bills and take care of myself – by helping people, I’d love to do that. I find that through my current job by helping people live a better life, or be more successful in athletics or lose weight. Simply, I enjoy helping people, so anything involving that would be ideal for me.
You are a legendarily tough linebacker. Are you pretty tough with your athletes? Do you have a difference presence in your gym than you did on the field?
I take each individual person, and I try to address what they need from me as a strength coach, as a motivator. Some people need tough love, some people need to be sat down and have things explained. Everyone is different, so I try to approach everyone in a different way. Everyone’s motivations are different. I was able to be around enough coaches and leaders with different styles. You have to figure out what’s right for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all mentality.
Do you ever think about going back into football? Coaching?
I would, I just have to find the time. I enjoy the game. I enjoy working with guys, and talking X’s and O’s, and game planning and all that. I just need to find the right situation for me to get back involved. A couple years ago, I helped out with a junior football league here in Westerville, and I had a blast doing that. It’s just a matter of finding the right thing and really doing something that – making sure it’s fun, not a chore or a task. I want to enjoy it.
Awesome! Well, thank you so much for…
My three people! My three people – I would say number one is Bo Jackson. I know he’s still alive, but I think he’d be cool. He was my athletic highlight and idol growing up.
[Pause] Sorry, I’m helping my wife hang something up.
Two would be Woody Hayes. Three: Paul Brown. Winston Churchill would be very cool, but he’s not in my top three.