Laurinaitis Comfortable in Columbus

The 2006 season was a tremendous year for Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis talked about his season Saturday in North Canton at a charity autograph session. Bill Greene caught up with Laurinaitis to get his views on a variety of subjects.

Sophomore linebacker James Laurinaitis was one of the pleasant surprises of the Ohio State 2006 season. Laurinaitis won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's Defensive Player of the Year. Prior to the start of the season Laurinaitis was just hoping to be a starter let alone a star.

"I was definitely surprised at the year I had," Laurinaitis said. "There was no way to predict that I would have that kind of season. I was confident in my ability to contribute to the defense but I never looked at myself as someone who would get that kind of recognition. I'm still pretty humbled by the award to be honest."

Laurinaitis credited his father, a former professional wrestler known as The Animal, for teaching him how to handle performing on a big stage.

"Even though that was totally different from football I learned about how to handle life in the limelight, " Laurinaitis explained. "Being from that kind of background helped me prepare to handle being in the media and being the center of attention. When you're an Ohio State football player there are a lot of people watching your every move."

Along with the undefeated regular season and outright Big-10 championship came a disappointing loss to Florida in the championship game. Laurinaitis talked about the loss.

"Even today it's hard to put your finger on what happened in Arizona," he continued. "It wasn't about their speed, as everyone seemed to think. Our team speed is excellent. It was a combination of things. First off they were tremendous. It started badly for us and we never seemed to regroup. I don't think we responded to being behind as well as we should have. I guess in the end you have to say it just wasn't our night. I'll never blame our coaching staff or my teammates. It just wasn't meant to be."

Even with the loss of several key performers Laurinaitis is optimistic about next year's Buckeye team.

"We have a lot of talent coming back," he noted. "We will have a lot to prove. Last year there were a lot of questions marks about the defense. Next year the offense will have to break in some new players and they will need to step up and get the job done. We have a lot of talented players who have waited for their chance. This is their time to show what they can do."

Laurinaitis played his high school football in Minnesota and has never regretted his decision to attend Ohio State.

"Playing at Ohio State has been a dream come true," Laurinaitis said, with a smile. "The support we get from our fans is unbelievable. Being in Columbus has been better than I thought it would be."

Laurinaitis also addressed the issue of players leaving early for the NFL. If he has the type of year next year, might he consider moving onto the next level?

"For myself there's no way I'm leaving," he exclaimed. "I love being here and I'm not going to give up this experience. I have a lot I want to accomplish at Ohio State both academically and on the football field. I don't blame the guys who left but that's not going to be me. I'm going to stay the whole time and take advantage of being at Ohio State."

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