Linebacker James Laurinaitis, the "Little Animal": 2009 NFL Draft Player Profile

Jersey Al BraccoSenior Analyst IFebruary 1, 2009

James Laurinaitis is truly a product of his upbringing.  His father was a professional wrestler (WWE - The Animal) and his mother was a 120 lb. bodybuilder that could deadlift 315lbs. So there was little chance he would grow up to be a wimpy kid.

He grew up in Hamel, Minnesota and like most kids in Minnesota, played a lot of hockey. Naturally he was a defenseman, so you knew he had to have a bit of a mean streak and was unafraid of putting his body in harms way. He was good enough to have been drafted by NHL teams out of high school, but he made it clear that football was his real passion.

His senior year in High School, he was named Defensive Mr. Football in the state of Minnesota and received football offers from UCLA, Notre Dame and Ohio State among others, finally choosing the Buckeyes.

He would go on to have a great career at OSU, choosing to stay for his senior year, despite being projected as a high first round draft pick after his junior year. A very religious person (check his Myspace and Facebook pages), he is dedicated and committed to contributing to some larger goal, more than individual achievements.

Despite that, he has quite an impressive list of awards and statistics:


2006 Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the nation's best defensive player
2006 Butkus Award and Bednarik Award finalist
2006 first team All-Big Ten
2006 Walter Camp First Team All-American
2006 Football Writers Association of America First Team All-American
2006 Randy Gradishar Linebacker Award (team award)
2007 Butkus Award winner as the nation's top linebacker
2007 Walter Camp First Team All-American
2007 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
2007 Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award, Lott Trophy and Bednarik Award finalist
2007 AFCA Coaches' First Team All-American
2007 Sporting News First Team All-American
2007 Football Writers Association of America First Team All-American
2008 AFCA Coaches' First Team All-American
2008 Sporting News First Team All-American
2008 AP All-American Team
2008 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
2008 Lott Trophy - Impact player of the Year -on and off the field


Career Statistics

2005, GP 12, TKL 9, TFL 0.5, SACK 0, PBU 0, INT 0
2006, GP 13, TKL 115, TFL 8.5, SACK 4, PBU 2, INT 5
2007, GP 13, TKL 121, TFL 8.5, SACK 5, PBU 1, INT 2
2008, GP 13, TKL 130, TFL 7.0, SACK 4, PBU 4, INT 2

TOTALS: GP 51, TKL 375, TFL 24.5, SACK 13, PBU 7. INT 9

Highlights video:

James is active in outreach involving Christian groups on campus and working with young people statewide. He speaks to 2-3 groups per month in terms of his witness and faith. He feels his position as a football player gives him a unique platform from which to reach young people with Christ’s message. 

Laurinaitis has proven extremely dependable and durable. He never missed a game in 4 years at Ohio State, where he was a two-time captain.

Nicknamed the "Little Animal", after his father, Laurinaitis is a solid 6'3, 240lbs, and runs a 4.60 forty. He has excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and displays great instincts. His speed and instincts will help him be an immediate contributor in the NFL.

A lifelong Vikings Fan, Lauriniaitis is may still be around at Pick 22 when Minnesota selects, but even if he drops that far, the Vikings have more pressing needs on Offense. Many mock drafts have him going to Detroit at #20.

Full Scouting Report from New Era Scouting:

Character / Leadership Ability: A natural leader. Was named captain as a junior. First time that has happened since Jim Tressel has been coach at Ohio State.

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: Is well-prepared for every game. Is a tireless worker and has a very high motor. Puts a lot of time in the film room.

Football Intelligence: Has outstanding instincts and knowledge of the game. Make good reads and is always around the ball. Makes all the calls for the defense.

Size: Has prototypical size for his position. He could actually put on more upper body strength and not have it affect his quickness. 

Athletic Ability: Is a very athletic player. Has good straight-line and lateral speed. His athleticism lets him drop into coverage as well as pursue down the line and make plays. Very good athlete.
Toughness / Durability: Has not missed a game due to injury while at Ohio State. Very durable who plays every play.


Specific Traits - Inside Linebacker:

Speed: Is fast for a linebacker. Can fill a hole quickly and has good pursuit down the line of scrimmage.

Instincts / Recognition: Has a nose for the ball. Is rarely out of position and reacts well to play action. Puts in the time in the film room which translates to him being in the right position on most plays.

Pass Rush: Is a productive blitzer who has good pursuit speed to get to the quarterback. He doesn't have a variety of moves and usually relies on his athleticism to slips blocks. Must work on developing these moves for the next level.

Pursuit: Has good sideline-to-sideline speed. Never gives up on a play. Covers a lot ground and closes quickly.

Tackling: Is a very good open-field tackler. Fills the hole and brings down the carrier. Very sure tackler.

Coverage: Drops well into coverage. Is quick and has the ability to cover backs and tight ends.

Shedding Blocks: Uses his hands well to get off blocks at the point of attack. Is strong but sometimes let the linemen get into his body and struggles to disengage.