Friday, October 02, 2009

Big Kat Moves Past Football To Family Life

His professional football career did not go how he hoped, but former Buckeye linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer has moved on to a new chapter in his life. Katzenmoyer reminisced about his time at Ohio State and his life now prior to his induction into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame.

By Matthew Hager

October 2, 2009

The Big Kat is now the Big Family Man.

While Andy Katzenmoyer still looks like the ferocious Ohio State linebacker who won the Butkus Award as a sophomore in 1997, the former All-American looked happiest with his family Sept. 25 at The Columbus hotel when he was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame. Katzenmoyer had his wife and his young daughter with him when he joined six other Buckeye greats as the newest inductees to the men’s hall.

Katzenmoyer’s three-year collegiate career was memorable to say the least. Katzenmoyer still ranks in Ohio State’s top 10 for career solo tackles (197, sixth); tackles for a loss in a game (5.0, tied for first), season (23.0, second) and career (50.0, fourth); tackles for a loss yards in a season (103, tied for fourth) and career (192, sixth), sacks in a game (3.0, tied for fifth), season (12.0, tied for third) and career (17.5, tied for ninth), sack yards in a season (74, sixth) and career (114, tied for ninth); and career interception returns for touchdowns (two, tied for first). In addition to his Butkus Award win, Katzenmoyer was a second-team All-American as a freshman, a consensus All-American as a sophomore and a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior.

He had a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, but Katzenmoyer said he was surprised by the honor.

“It was something I never even thought about,” Katzenmoyer said. “You don’t play at Ohio State for any other reason than being at Ohio State and playing for great teams. I just never really thought about it to be honest.”

Katzenmoyer did play for some great teams as a Buckeye. His OSU career was full of on-the-field success sprinkled with some tough losses. The USA Today Defensive Player of the Year and Mr. Ohio honoree as a high school senior, Katzenmoyer started his collegiate career with the Buckeyes in 1996. Ohio State went 11-1 that season and won a dramatic Rose Bowl against Arizona State. The only blemish came in a 13-9 loss to Michigan at Ohio Stadium. The next year, Ohio State went 10 games but lost to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes entered the 1998 season as the preseason No. 1, a rank they held until an unlikely home loss to Michigan State. A win over Michigan and a Sugar Bowl victory against Texas A&M put a positive capper on Katzenmoyer’s time in Columbus.

“I’m very proud of our team accomplishments, and I’m very proud of the fact that I only lost five games in my career at Ohio State,” Katzenmoyer said. “I played in three Jan. 1 bowl games. I met a lot of great friends and played for lots of great coaches.”

When asked what he remembers most about his time donning the scarlet and gray, he didn’t hesitate with an answer.

“For me it’s all the negative stuff – the five losses that we had,” Katzenmoyer said. “If I watch old film or tapes, I think, ‘Man, I could have played better. I could have done that better. I could have done this better.’ I critique everything I did.”

But he hasn’t forgotten the positives, either.

“There were a lot of good times, too,” Katzenmoyer said. “The Rose Bowl win against Arizona State was amazing to be a part of, as was beating Michigan my junior year in the show. That was awesome. I had a great time at Ohio State.”

After leaving after his junior season, Katzenmoyer was drafted by the New England Patriots with the 28th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Unfortunately his professional football career did not live up to expectations. Katzenmoyer started 11 games as a rookie at middle linebacker for the injured Ted Johnson and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team. But his season was overshadowed by a serious neck injury. A helmet-to-helmet collision with Buffalo Bills fullback Sam Gash created an injury that never fully healed.

Katzenmoyer had a pair of surgeries on his neck, but his return to the field was very brief. He missed half of the 2000 season and during training camp in 2001, Katzenmoyer left the Patriots without permission after feeling pain in his neck following a physical practice. He never returned.

Nonetheless, Katzenmoyer has made the transition from football hero to family man. He still lives in the Columbus area, running a personal training studio with his wife and brother-in-law in Westerville. His wife, Ashleigh, and 17-month-old daughter, Ava, posed with Katzenmoyer for pictures before Katzenmoyer’s induction.

“Life’s good,” Katzenmoyer said.

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