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June 8, 2009

Catching up with Jason Fabini

Here's one that makes you feel old. At least in my case.

It's actually happened before, but this is a guy who had an NFL career that most only dream of. Jason Fabini, a Bearcat from 1993-1997 is retiring from pro football after an 11-year career (eight with the Jets, a year with the Cowboys, and the last two with the Washington Redskins).

I found this out as I was approaching 471 on the way home from UC the other day after trying to track Fabini down for a couple days.

"I'm retiring," he confirmed. "I played 11 years with some great organizations. I made some life-long friends and I've had some great experiences. The last two years in Washington I really enjoyed. It was a nice group of guys-we were pretty good-but never good enough I guess."

I mentioned to Jason that his retirement brought to a close that great recruiting class of April '98 that saw five Bearcats go to "the league". (A refresher: Artrell Hawkins in round 2, Brad Jackson in round 3, Fabini in round 4, Derrick Ransom in round 6 and Rod Monroe in round 7.)

"I guess that's good," Fabini said. "We did have a good class come out in '98. We actually had some good talent on that team. I guess sometimes talent doesn't equal wins. I think everyone that plays sports knows that."

Not that the '97 team was a flop. Far from it.

It's just that I've always said that team easily could've been 10-1 going into that Humanitarian Bowl.

"8-4 with the bowl game, I just think we had a lot of talent and we probably lost some games we should've won," Fabini said in agreement.

Like most of his class, the bowl game in Boise stands out in Fabini's college career.

"Definitely, it was something that hadn't been done in 47 years and that group of guys on the team was able to do it," Jason said. "I think now it's a regular thing (bowl games) which is great. But, when we went it hadn't been done in 47 years. We were good enough my first year there to go to a bowl, but nobody wanted us (1993 Tim Murphy team that went 8-3). I think just by going to the bowl game that year put UC football back on the map somehow. It made people recognize that we did play football at UC and we had good players."

Individually, I recalled a touchdown Fabini scored late in '97. As the sideline reporter, I found his Mom in the stands and went up and put her on the air. (I never felt obligated to be tied to the sidelines.)
"Yeah, I fell on one," Fabini recalled.

I told him years from now that fall will be a leaping grab in the endzone.

"Yeah, high leaping catch...maybe a 20-yard-run too!" laughed Fabini.

As many have seen, the football operations have changed dramatically since Jason Fabini played his last game as a Bearcat in 1997. Particularly, in strength and conditioning.

"The training I'm sure is a lot different you know," said Fabini. "We had a great strength coach then in Mickey Marotti (left UC for Notre Dame, now with Urban Meyer at Florida)."

Mickey didn't have near the facilities that Paul Longo has now.

"When I was in town when we (the Redskins) played the Bengals, I went up there and Wid (Football Administrator John Widecan) showed me the new facility," Fabini said. "I'm telling you the weight room they have now is unbelievable! I saw the campus and it's really beautiful. It's great to see it and to think about where the campus has come in 10 years. When I was walking around an NFL locker room, I had some pride in Cincinnati and the way they've been playing football the last couple of years."

And, Jason was able to be in Miami this past January for the Orange Bowl to witness more Bearcat history.

"It was unbelievable," Fabini repeated. "I actually went to the game. Unfortunately, we (the Redskins) didn't make the playoffs, so I was able to go. It was great. I couldn't believe all the people in the stands. It was unbelievable, it really was!"

Not a bad response from a guy who actually participated in NFL playoff games in venues like Dolphin (now Land Shark) Stadium.

"I was in nine, maybe 10," Fabini remembered. "I did play in an AFC championship game (Jets in '99) but we couldn't beat the Broncos to go to the Super Bowl."

Now, the behemoth 6-7 312 -pound Fabini will retire at the ripe, young age of 34. He'll be 35 in August. After 11 years in the NFL, we'll do what Rick Minter would often say and "take our hat off to him".

Next order of business?

"I've got four boys, I've got a lot of work," Fabini said. "I don't know. Starting this summer I'm going to do an internship with the Kansas City Chiefs. I'm going to go out there and work with my offensive line coach I had with the Jets my first four years. I'm going to do that and see how I like it. Coaches are amazing, they put a lot of time into their craft and I don't know if I'm willing to make that commitment at this time. But, I'm going to go out there and see if I like it and see if it's something I might want to do in the future."

I would think anyone that survived 11 pro seasons would be a great resource for any team.

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