James Laurinaitis Talks Playoffs and Recruitment

Jim Laurinaitis, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Plymouth (MN) Wayzata, is considered Minnesota's top linebacker and may be the state's top defensive player. Laurinaitis has led the Trojans to an 11-1 record and a spot in the Class AAAA semifinals versus Woodbury. Laurinaitis committed to Minnesota in April, becoming the second player to verbal to the Gophers. However, he has decided to visit Ohio State next month. GoldenSports.net caught up with Laurinaitis to find out the latest.

Jim Laurinaitis has been a regular at most Gopher games, but watched his freshman sister's hockey game Saturday versus Anoka (Anoka won 4-3), causing him to miss Minnesota-Iowa game. GoldenSports.net caught up with Laurinaitis Tuesday night after returning from watching his sister's team defeat Hill Murray 3-1.

Hockey is another game that is in Laurinaitis' blood as he is also a standout hockey player who led the Trojans to the state tournament last season.

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 helped lead the Trojans to a 34-27 comeback win over Cretin-Derham Hall in last Friday's quarterfinals. Wayzata beat Cretin 33-22 in the regular season as they scored two touchdowns in the final 6:11 to rally for that win.

"It seems like every time we play them, it is a close one. We scored 21 unanswered points for the win."

Wayzata will face Woodbury at the Metrodome Saturday for the right to advance to the state championship game. Woodbury was just 3-5 in the regular season, but advanced to the state semifinals with a 31-14 win over Centennial. Royals running back Kyle Jepson rushed 24 times for 296 yards in the win.

"We are not treating them like a Cinderella story," Laurinaitis said. "They are a team that lost who they thought would be their quarterback early in the year. They have a funky offense, but if you follow the linemen, you can keep them in check. We'll be ready. We had a great practice today. If we can jump on them early, Cinderella's show might come off."

A victory over Woodbury could set them up for a rematch with Minnetonka in the championship game. Minnetonka was the only team to defeat Wayzata this season as they defeated the Trojans 22-14. Wayzata, which has one of the top rushing attacks in the state, was limited to just 56 yards on 25 carries.

"Of course, we'd love a rematch, but we are not worried about it. We're concerned about this week's game first. Coach thought we could beat them with deep bombs and Quinn (Hendel) only had four carries in the first half. they blitzed us and that hurt out passing game and we could not cover (Minnetonka TE Chris) Joppru."

Minnetonka must beat Champlin Park to advance to the title game.

"We'd like to see someone new. Champlin Park is undefeated. We want to get to that game," Laurinaitis said.

Laurinaitis is having an outstanding season, leading the Metro area in tackles.

"Last year, I had 119 tackles all year. I was hoping to reach that during the regular season. I had 112 tackles in the eight regular-season games and have 165 so far for an average of 15 per game.

Laurinaitis will visit Ohio State Dec. 10 and will come to Minnesota the following weekend.

"I was going to visit Minnesota on the 3rd, but they wanted me to come to visit after going to Ohio State. I want to make sure that is where I want to go. I'm going to go to Ohio State open-minded."

Laurinaitis said that Notre Dame is coming to his school on Friday and see film on him and Hendel (who the Irish are looking at as an outside linebacker) and will attend his game Saturday.

Laurinaitis said that many of the people surrounding him were not shocked on his decision to visit Ohio State after committing early to Minnesota.

"My friends were not surprised. They had talked to me about the Gophers' play in the second half of the season. Everyone has an opinion. I'm taking the opinion of my family, who would like me to play close to home," he said. "However, my dream is to play at the next level and Ohio State had 14 players drafted last season. The U coaches were surprised, but like I told my dad, I'm 17 years old."

Laurinaitis said that he does not expect to totally re-open his recruitment.

"You never know what can happen. But, once I committed, I jumped off a lot of their (recruiters') map."

"I don't need to worry about an offer. The regular season is when you want to put on a show, but now I want to win."

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories