James Laurinaitis, taken by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2009 Draft has turned out to be a leader for his team's defensive unit.
At 6'2" and 244 lbs, Laurinaitis certainly had the size to play middle linebacker in the NFL. He finished his rookie season as the Rams' leader with 146 total tackles in 16 games. Laurinaitis also had two sacks and two interceptions to go along with his team leading tackles.
Laurinaitis has developed into the vocal leader of the defense this year. Calling plays on defense and adjusting the defensive unit to maximize each plays potential has all been part of Laurinaitis' 2010 resume with the Rams.
Laurinaitis is used to success. As a star linebacker for The Ohio State University, he was a first team Associated Press All-American selection as a sophomore and won the Nagurski Trophy as the nation's best defensive player his junior year.
Although Laurinaitis was eligible to enter the 2008 NFL Draft, he chose to return to Ohio State and help his team vie for the national championship. Ohio State did not win the title, losing to Penn State and USC during the season, but Laurinaitis did lead his team in tackles for the third straight season, finishing with 130 total tackles.
For his senior season efforts, Laurinaitis was a first team AP All-American selection (also for the third straight season), and a finalist for the Lombardi and Butkus Awards. He won the Lott Trophy as the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year.
As an organization, the Rams have had some hits and misses when it comes to the NFL Draft. Laurinaitis has proven to be a steal for a team that continues to take steps in the right direction.
In a year were the Rams have a "new" owner, former minority owner Stan Kroenke and a new quarterback, number one draft pick Sam Bradford, the future is certainly bright in St. Louis once again!