Verbal Jim Laurinaitis evaluates his potential

Jim Laurinaitis, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Plymouth (MN) Wayzata, is considered Minnesota's top player at his position. Laurinaitis finished with 128 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and four interceptions in 2003 as the Trojans finished 8-3 last season. He is also a standout hockey player who led the Trojans to the state tournament. Laurinaitis committed to Minnesota in April, becoming the second player to verbal to the Gophers. GoldenSports.Net caught up with Laurinaitis recently.

Jim Laurinaitis comes from an athletic family. His father, John Laurinaitis, was recently named WWE vice president of talent relations and is a former wrestler who was part of the tag team Road Warriors and used the name "Animal."


Laurinaitis was seemingly everywhere on the field in the Trojans' 30-15 season-opening win over Totino-Grace. He finished with 18 tackles (two for a loss), forced two fumbles and had two quarterback hurries. Laurinaitis also made a key block that sprung Joey Miller for a 71-yard punt return.  


How exciting is it to start out with a big win against a tough opponent like Totino Grace?


"It is huge. You look at Grace and see that they have a lot of guys back and they won state last year. It is such a thrill to come out and beat them on your home field with Youth Night and all the kids looking up to you. It was a fun win."


You were involved in a lot of tackles. Were you kind of surprised at how much you played when you opened a big lead?


"After they marched down against our second team, we knew that they were a team that could scored really quick. We did not want to give them any chance, any life, so they put us back out there. I don't want to leave the field. I don't care if we are up 60-0, I want to be out there, so it did not bother me at all."


What was the main factor in your decision to commit to Minnesota early?


"I'm best friends with Dom Barber (a current Gopher freshman). I've been around the program and been down to practices with Dom. The coaches are nice. I know them and I'm comfortable around them. I trust them that they know what they are doing. I've got family here and I've always been a Gopher fan, so that played into it."


There are a lot of expectations for the Gophers this season. What are you expecting from them?


"I'm looking for a Big Ten contender this year. I think that if (Bryan) Cupito steps up and does a solid good and does not make a lot of mistakes that they are going to be real good. I think that the defense is athletic and they are going to fly around. The program is on the rise."


Have they said what linebacker position they are looking at you for?


"They said all three. I'm not really worried about that. I'm just trying to focus on this year, get a state championship and I'll put it in their hands. Wherever they want me on the field is fine with me."


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