Laurinaitis Ready For Next Level

Ohio State fans embraced James Laurinaitis as a favorite player during his time in a Buckeye uniform, and he is now looking forward to a pro career. Get his thoughts on the draft, his upcoming weeks and where he stands in the OSU annals in this article.

For plenty of outgoing college seniors, a spot in the Senior Bowl is something that is avoided so as not to mess up their projected draft status. With a full career's worth of work behind them, many players opt out of the annual all-star game rather than risk damaging their stock for the upcoming NFL Draft.

James Laurinaitis is not like most players. The former Ohio State linebacker was set to take part in the game until he was felled by the flu, making him unable to make the trip to Mobile, Ala.

"I would've gone to the Senior Bowl but when your body doesn't feel right and you've got the flu and you have things going on like that, you can't control that," he said, speaking to reporters Jan. 25 at halftime of OSU's men's basketball game. "It would've been exciting. Marcus (Freeman) said it was a good time and said that he thought I would've stood out there."

To Laurinaitis, the game would have been one more opportunity to prove his worth on a national stage. He departs OSU as the school's seventh leading tackler all-time with 375 stops and earned AP All-American honors in each of the last three seasons. Projected as a mid- to late-first round pick, Laurinaitis said he is not paying attention to the draft projections.

Despite his resume, which also includes being named the winner of the Butkus, Lott and Nagurski awards, Laurinaitis said he also plans to take part in both OSU's pro day and the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine, set for Feb. 18-24 in Indianapolis.

"I'm looking forward to it," Laurinaitis said. "When I get out there and do the drills people aren't going to expect me to be athletic and when they see what I can do with no pads on running around, I think I'll surprise some people. When I get to meet personnel and GMs and stuff and talk straight football, I think I'll win some people over there."

The linebacker said he is not the only former Buckeye who will turn heads on the combine circuit. Laurinaitis labeled cornerback Donald Washington "a freak" who has first-round ability that will pay off for any team that nabs him in the late rounds.

Washington opted to forgo his senior season to head to the NFL. The same went for wide receiver Brian Hartline, whom Laurinaitis said he knew would be departing early for some time now.

"I kind of knew for a while what his decision was going to be," he said. "He came in with us and when you come in with all your friends and a lot of guys, that will influence your decision a lot more. He's just ready to make the next step in his life. It has nothing to do about Ohio State or that. He just wants to make that next step and take that next challenge. I think he's going to be successful."

Laurinaitis was honored at halftime of the school's basketball game against Michigan State for being named the inaugural winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for football. Looking back on his career, he downplayed his own place in Buckeye history.

"To be recognized here at a basketball game in front of all the fans is something that's extremely cool," he said. "I'm thrilled to have been a part of Ohio State and really just be here and experience all this. It's been truly a blessing. To be considered a legend and all that, that's for somebody else to talk about. I'm just glad I got to play."

Since the Buckeyes ended the season with a Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas – loss in which Laurinaitis said he was "damn proud" of the way the defense fought – the linebacker has been keeping busy both in and out of the weight room. He is training with former teammates like Malcolm Jenkins in advance of the combine, and he has hired and agent. In addition, he has spent time taking part in the autograph circuit and meeting Buckeye fans in the process.

The experience has given him an entirely new look on the program, he said.

"The best thing about that is just getting to enjoy talking to the fans and hearing things and seeing pictures that you've never seen before, photos that maybe they've taken at games," he said. "It's cool to talk to them and hear their stories and see pictures of their Buckeye rooms and really see how crazy this state is about Buckeye football. Stuff that takes to a whole other level of psychotic fans, but it's awesome. That's why people come here."

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