Mike Kudla, a defensive end on Ohio State's national championship team in 2002 and the school's most valuable player on defense in 2005, died at age 34, his high school alma mater announced Monday.
A press release from Highland Local Schools in Medina, Ohio, indicated that Kudla died suddenly on Sunday. No other details were provided surrounding his death. Funeral arrangements were pending.
He graduated from high school in 2002 and went on to play for the Ohio State team that beat the University of Miami in the BCS national championship game during his freshman year.
Kudla was All-Big Ten and part of two Big Ten championship teams during his career, which he capped in 2005 with three sacks in Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. As a senior, he finished with 41 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He ranks 14th in career sacks at Ohio State.
After leaving Ohio State, Kudla signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent, but injuries derailed his pro football career. He then embarked on a business career in risk and insurance management before returning to Ohio State and in 2012 became managing director of development for the Fisher School of Business.
He also was the owner of Core Plex, a company that builds medical facilities. Kudla was working with the NFL on protocols for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, the neurodegenerative disease that affects those with traumatic brain injuries.
"Despite his success on and off the football field, Mike remained humble and was extremely generous with his time and resources," the Highland district's director of communications Dawn Marzano wrote on Facebook in announcing Kudla's deeath. "He was always willing to share his experience and mentor youth. He was loved and respected by many and will be missed terribly."