Former Ohio State DE Dead at 34

By Jeff Rapp, July 16th, 2018

Mike Kudla was a freshman football player at Ohio State in 2002, the year the Buckeyes broke through and won the program’s first national championship in 34 years. He bookended his career in grand style as a senior in 2005 with a breakout campaign at the forefront of arguably the best OSU defense in the Jim Tressel era.

That kind of career can endear you to coaches, teammates and fans – and did.

But on Monday, sadly, Buckeye Nation was left to mourn the loss of Kudla, a muscular and active defensive lineman from Medina, Ohio. He was just 34 years old.

Kudla’s cause of death is unknown – or, at least, unreported to this point. Funeral arrangements are pending.

A graduate of Highland High School in his hometown of Medina, Kudla actually was named Ohio State’s defensive most valuable player in 2005 after dominating in several games at end. He racked up three sacks against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in his final collegiate game.

Kulda flirted with a professional career after signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent, but injuries ended his NFL dreams just as he seemed to be reaching them.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Kudla returned to Ohio State and in 2012 was named managing director of development for the Fisher School of Business. A workout warrior at OSU, Kudla later became owner of Core Plex, which builds medical facilities. He also worked with the NFL on protocols for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.

Highland Local Schools posted on Twitter on Monday that Kudla died unexpectedly on Sunday.

On cue, several former OSU teammates offered their thoughts and condolences.

“Hate to hear this today,” former tight end Ben Hartsock stated on Twitter. “Mike was a great teammate. Will never forget watching him comeback from that crazy illness in ’03. He could curl the 100lb dumbbells like paper weights.”

Added Dustin Fox, “RIP Mike. We all lost a brother and great friend today. He was the ultimate war daddy. One of baddest dudes I’ve ever played with, but also one of the most kind and genuine guys you could ever meet. Prayers go out to the Kudla family during this difficult time.”

Anthony Gonzalez, a wide receiver turned politician, also was among those stung.

“Devastated to hear the news of the passing of former friend and teammate, Mike Kudla,” he said. “Praying hard for his friends and family during this incredibly difficult time.”