Laskowski's Out To Prove That He's Special

What are the odds? Chris Lawkowski walks on to become a player on Florida Atlantic's first-ever football team in 2000. Less than five years later, he's competing for a roster spot at linebacker for a NFL playoff caliber team, the Indianapolis Colts.

Laskowski was a three-year starter for former Colts head coach Howard Schnellenberger and played in all 47 games during his four-year career -- even with a broken left hand during one stretch as a junior. Once Florida Atlantic's weakside linebacker, he now finds himself on the depth chart behind Cato June and Gilbert Gardner with the Indianapolis Colts.

And so far, he's making the best of that opportunity and positioning himself to be the next undrafted free agent to make the Colts final roster. Although it's a rarity with many teams, the Colts have found great talent through undrafted players, including running back Dominic Rhodes and middle linebacker Gary Brackett.

Laskowski's intelligent approach to the game and early performance may have contributed to the early departure of a fourth weakside linebacker, Derrick Toles out of Penn State who was released following offseason groin surgery. But either the healing process wasn't progressing as planned, or the Colts had enough confidence in Laskowski to simply move on leaving Laskowski positioned at the #3 spot on the depth chart.

Laskowski fits the mold of what the Colts are looking for on defense and special teams -- and they are striving to upgrade both of those units. He's fast, smart (regularly earning at least a 3.0 and graduating in December of his senior year), and a hitter. He finished his career with 295 tackles (an FAU record), 8 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

Ask him what stat he's most proud of, and Laskowski is likely to point to that tackles number. "Just being around the ball is what it's all about." he said during an interview following the Hula Bowl.

Laskowski looks back on his unique college experience and believes it has helped mold him into the person and player he is today.

"With a new program, all us new guys got the opportunity to play from the beginning. We were able to establish a foundation. It made you become tough and mature. It made you become a leader."

As team MVP his sophomore year and co-MVP his junior and senior years, he learned even more about the qualities it takes to be a credible leader.

"You always have to lead by action, then voice; make your actions speak," he said.

Born in Melbourne, Florida, Laskowski grew up in a household abundant in education, football, and close family ties. His father, Larry, is the football coach and a teacher at Rockledge High School. His mother, Mary Pat, is a teacher as well. He has three siblings, including two sisters and a 9-year old brother and a large extended family that is closely monitoring his progress with great enthusiasm.

When he joined Florida Atlantic's brand new football program, he couldn't have imagined that he would wind up with an invitation to play in the Hula Bowl at the end of his senior year. That honor marked the moment when he started to believe that he could draw some interest from the NFL.

"I was going to save that thought until after graduation," he said at the time. "This definitely helped the decision process along in a hurry. It has swayed my decision process a little bit about what I want to do with my life."

At Florida Atlantic's Pro Day, he continued to post solid enough numbers to stay on pro scouts' radar. He ran between 4.48 - 4.55 in the 40 with a few having him as low as 4.42. He ran a 4.15 short shuttle, 7.02 three-cone, 35" vertical and 10'2" broad jump. And he pushed through 23 reps of 225 pounds. Overall, what really stood out was his agility and his straight-line speed -- both very attractive for special teams work. His stock was continuing to rise to the level where some projected him to get a look as a late-round pick, perhaps even as a safety instead of a linebacker.

According to one source, Jacksonville and Kansas City were in touch with his agent before the end of the draft, raising some hope that he would get selected in the 7th-round by one of those teams. His agent had also heard from Indianapolis prior to the draft, but Laskowski didn't hear from them until late in the final round. Despite higher initial interest by the Chiefs and the Jaguars, the Colts were the team that came through with a 3-year contract offer while the others simply invited him to attend their rookie camps.

He was assured that not only were the Colts interested in him due to his excellent special teams work, but because they also felt he had potential at the weakside linebacker position at the pro level.

Laskowki has one goal during training camp -- to prove that he can be a valuable asset to the team, wherever they need him. During mini-camps and summer school, he's seen plenty of action on four special teams units -- kick coverage and returns and punt coverage and returns.

Bill Polian expressed his admiration for the young linebacker, making this comment after the Colts signed him to his contract.

"We think maybe he's a Larry Izzo-type player," he said. "We'll see what he does on special teams during the season. It will be interesting."

It certainly will. Because the Colts are going to see a player with an attitude that they desperately need on special teams. That attitude is best summed up by a quote Laskowski made during his collegiate career prior to his team facing a particularly staunch opponent.

"We're not intimidated by anything," he said. "We're just going to go out there and do what we've been doing all week and play as hard as we always do and hopefully wear them out."

And when he carries that attitude into training camp, he knows what it will take to be one of the 53 men suiting up to play the Ravens for the regular season opener.

"It's about making plays and taking advantage of your opportunities," he said.


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