Time and Change is a series at BuckeyeNation in which we chat with former Ohio State athletes.
When Buckeyes fans think of former players at the position, Andy Katzenmoyer is perhaps the prototypical middle linebacker. A fierce competitor on and off the field, Katzenmoyer roamed the field for the Buckeyes from 1996 to 1998 and was the first true freshman to start the opener at linebacker for Ohio State.
The 1997 Butkus Award winner started all 37 games during his college career and finished his three-year stint with the Buckeyes ranked fifth on the school's career list with 197 solo tackles and 18 quarterback sacks, and fourth in tackles for loss (50).
As a junior, he was a finalist for the Butkus, Lombardi and Maxwell Football Club's Defensive Player of the Year awards.
As a sophomore, Katzenmoyer was a consensus first-team All-American and the first player from Ohio State to win the Butkus, as the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl. He was a finalist for the Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski and Maxwell awards.
Katzenmoyer was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-American in 1996.
Taken with the 28th pick in the 1999 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, he ranked third on the team in tackles (107), had 3½ sacks and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team before a neck injury ended his career.
Katzenmoyer, now 34, lives in Westerville, Ohio, and owns Katzenmoyer Performance, an individualized personal training facility.
BuckeyeNation asked him about the neck injury that cut short his NFL career, the 1998 Ohio State team that came one upset from glory, and his life today.
BN: The neck injury obviously cut your career short in the NFL. Do you miss the game at all?
Katzenmoyer: I don't think about the what-ifs, but I definitely miss the game. My career was cut a little short, but I feel like I made the most of my opportunity afterward. I don't really look back and wish anything would have changed.
BN: What did former Ohio State coach John Cooper teach you that you use in everyday life?
Katzenmoyer: I wouldn't limit it to just John Cooper. I would say it was the entire coaching staff in bits and pieces. Probably the biggest thing I carry around is no matter how challenging or difficult a situation is you have to push forward and get through it. There's no substitute for hard work. We definitely did a lot of that when we were there.
BN: You've stuck around Columbus. For the athletes just entering Ohio State, what does it mean to be a Buckeye?
Katzenmoyer: What it means to me to be a Buckeye is to stand in line and carry on a tradition that was before me. Living up to the honor and the character and the pride that other Buckeyes had -- not only in my position, but the legacy of other positions -- and really not just living up to the standards only on the field but off the field is a big responsibility.
Katzenmoyer: I really do feel we had the best team in the nation that year. We went into that Michigan State game flat and really overlooked them. We knew they had a ton of talent but to that point hadn't put it all together. Even during that game we were up, I believe, 18 points at one point and it seemed like everything just fell apart. I would say all three years I was at Ohio State, if there's a four-team playoff we would be vying for a national championship. It's one of those things -- the what-ifs really doesn't change what happened. It's just as much the what was, but those are some of the greatest teams that I ever played on back in 1996, '97, '98.
BN: What's the buzz like in Columbus and what are the expectations -- maybe not this year, but in the next few years?
Katzenmoyer: I was fortunate to take part in a brand-new thing down in Ohio State called Friday Night Lights and I took my daughter down and we met most of the coaches we hadn't met before. I met Coach [Urban] Meyer for the first time and the vibe and the attitude and even the intensity walking around the locker room and the weight room during meetings is very intense, very focused, very competitive. It's something that -- not to say the focus wasn't there under [Jim] Tressel -- but there's a different attitude. I think it's a needed change. It had been 10-12 years under the Tressel era and now with Urban Meyer coming in, he's one of the coaches you'll do anything for. Just meeting him, you want him to like you. You want to get his approval in what you're doing. I think the change has been great.
BN: What's next for Andy Katzenmoyer?
Katzenmoyer: I own Katzenmoyer Performance. I'm getting ready to open up KP Crossfit, which is a functional style of training that applies to anyone and everyone. It's a good transition into what I've been offering so far, which is very individualized personal training and attention. This is designed for a larger client base. There's a wide variety that Katzenmoyer Performance and KP Crossfit offer. It's something I look for to develop and really take off.