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How boredom gave birth to new Patriots Hall of Famer Mike Vrabel’s tight end career

Vrabel recorded 12 career touchdown receptions.

Super Bowl XXXIX Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Mike Vrabel became the 34th inductee to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame on Wednesday. While much of that had to do from him being a key defensive figure on three Super Bowl winning teams, Vrabel’s offensive production was nothing to forget.

Speaking to the media during a congratulatory conference call on Thursday, Vrabel - who doubled as a red zone tight end at times - shared the start of his offensive career did not stem from some elaborate offensive plan, but instead just boredom.

“I use to warm-up up with Drew [Bledsoe],” Vrabel explained. “Just go out before the game, coupe hours before, goof around, run routes. I didn’t want to sit at my locker, I got there early. So, wanted to do something so I said ‘Well, lets go out and catch balls for the quarterback.’

“I would mess around with Drew. Then I think he might have said, ‘Hey Charlie [Weis], this guy could probably actually do something’ and it never materialized and then maybe next year, [Weis] might have said, ‘Give this a try, learn the plays.’”

Four weeks into the 2002 season, Vrabel got his first opportunity at the position. In a tie game against the San Diego Chargers, a play-action fake at the one-yard line resulted in a wide-open Vrabel. Tom Brady hit him for an easy score.

“First touchdown was in San Diego,” he recalled. “And we lost so nobody really talked about it. But, it materialized from there.”

Throughout his offensive career, Vrabel hauled in 12 total passes. All 12 went for touchdowns - including scores in Super Bowl victories over the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles.

In Super Bowl 38 against Carolina, New England trailed by one with just under three minutes remaining. Down at the goal line, Brady found Vrabel for the go-ahead score.

“The Super Bowl one, where everything is a fog and blur, and all a sudden through a bunch of helmets and hands, Tom managed to find the football and get it through,” Vrabel said.

A year later, Vrabel broke through for New England again on the big stage. Fighting through contact, he hauled in a two-yard score to give the Patriots a lead over the Eagles in the third quarter of Super Bowl 39.

“It looks ridiculous until you realized I got held and tackled,” he recalled with a laugh. “Looks like I’m trying to catch a beach ball. I don’t think that one wins the aesthetics award but being able to fight through the penalty.”

While the ones in the Super Bowl obviously stuck out, an unexpected score in the regular season may have been his personal favorite.

“There was a back line one against the Jets that I don't think we’ve ever thrown - it’s like the third possession in a goal line and I was on the back side,” he explained. “I never thought I would even get the ball and I turn around and the ball already left his hand and I was like ‘I guess he got to his third progression.’

“Normally it was like one, two and then throw it away on the goal line. I turned around and the ball was there and I was like ‘I don't think I've ever caught that end line on the goal line.’”

Now coaching the Titans, Vrabel has not forgotten the accomplishments and special moments that occurred in New England. He’s used everything he learned to help him get to where he is now.

“I think obviously very rewarding,” he said of his Patriots tenure. “It certainly set me up I think, for a great future, whether that was to be able to transition to Kansas City and help lead or ultimately become a coach. I loved coming to work with the players, and I think that that’s something that I’ll always miss, is what we had in the locker room and I still always want to try to recreate what we did there where the players were the ones that were trying to hold each other accountable, and not in a negative way, but just in a positive way, and how you push guys and how you work and how you want to prepare.”