Laptad Healthy and Ready

Jake Laptad calls his dad the most influential person in his life.

Jake Laptad, a senior defensive end at Kansas, said his dad, Darren, has taught him some invaluable life lessons.

"He taught me how to work hard," Laptad said of his father, a former football player at Missouri Southern.

"If I want something, to go after it and just give my all."

The young Laptad has certainly gone after it and given his all at KU the last three seasons. He's had a stellar career, improving each year while earning All-Big 12 Freshman honors by The Sporting News his first season and All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades as a sophomore and junior. Laptad has 24.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks (No. 7 all time at KU) for his career, just 7.5 sacks shy of Algie Atkinson's school record of 24.

The 6-4, 260-pound Tulsa, Okla., native now enters his senior campaign hoping to build off his best season last year, where he led the team with 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Laptad also paced KU linemen with 49 tackles.

After missing spring drills with a shoulder injury, Laptad now feels 100 percent and is ready for battle.

"It's great to be back and healthy," he said at KU Media Day. "Sitting out a whole spring is real hard. It was real tough for me, but I'm having a great time right now in camp and we're going out and working hard. ... It feels really great to get out there and start hitting some people."

Laptad was recently named one of 36 preseason candidates for the 2010 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Last year Laptad was added to the award's watch list during the season.

As the team's best defensive player and arguably the program's best player, Laptad is following in the footsteps of KU's great defensive players from recent years like Nick Reid, James McClinton, Aqib Talib and Darrell Stuckey.

Now it's Laptad's who's the face of KU's defense. And he's quite humbled to earn that distinction.

"It's an honor," Laptad said softly.

While he's a senior, Laptad and the rest of his teammates are starting fresh this season with a new head coach in Turner Gill and new assistant coaches. Laptad is enjoying working with Gill and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush.

"I feel like it's been great," Laptad said. "Coach Gill is a great guy. Everybody looks up to him. Everybody loves him. He brings a lot of energy both to the meetings and to the field."

So does Torbush.

"He's great," Laptad said. "It's a new defense and I kind of got to learn everything again (mainly new terminology), but I'm doing really well with it. Everything is going good."

Laptad said practices have been fast on the defensive side with a great emphasis on pursuing the ball.

"That's one thing we stress is getting the ball," Laptad said. "We're out there flying around and making plays."

For Laptad, this will be his last season making plays for the Jayhawks. He's going to savor every moment.

"It has gone by real fast. I've had a great time here," Laptad said.

"It's crazy," he added. "It's an eye opener. Just yesterday, I remember being a freshman here coming into all this. I thought it was all crazy. Now, I'm a senior going at it as a leader. It's just a great experience."

Laptad, who was named one of five co-captains by his teammates, takes his leadership role seriously.

"In the past, I've been more of silent leader, lead by example," he said. "But I feel like this year, I got to be more of a vocal leader on this team."

Laptad said Gill has helped him open up more through team building activities, where he talks to his teammates and coaches and "gets to know each other a little better."

Redshirt freshman defensive end Kevin Young said Laptad has been a supreme leader, and taken him under his wing since he arrived at Kansas.

So what makes Laptad so good?

"I think he's really knowledgeable to the game," Young replied. "He has a lot of knowledge. He's been doing it for a while. He knows what to do in what situation and what not to do. He (shares) that knowledge to people.

"He's a great college football player."

A great college player who could be playing for pay in the NFL next year. While Laptad is only focused on this season, he admits the NFL would be a great opportunity.

"Of course," Laptad said. "That's every kid's dream growing up."

Laptad has big dreams this year at Kansas. While he doesn't have any specific goals, he's hoping for a banner year for himself and the team.

All at a school he's grown to love.

"This program is great," Laptad said. "I've had the time of my life here at KU." Top Stories