It probably doesn’t surprise local Minnesotans who watched him play in high school for the Wayzata Trojans or football fans who saw him play 4 seasons at Ohio State, but Rams rookie LB and Plymouth, MN native James Laurinaitis has quickly made an impact in St. Louis.
The upbeat and heady LB – taken 35th overall by the Rams last April – already leads his team in tackles with 34 and has quickly established himself as a leader on the Rams defense.
“He played at a great school that won a lot of football games; he has played in big games before,” said Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo. “I think that brings you in the league a little more relaxed and when you are relaxed, things sink in a little bit easier. He has some football intelligence to him; he naturally has that. He loves this game. He studies it tremendously. I think all that adds up to a guy that can understand what we are doing.”
Laurinaitis plays the “mike” (middle) LB in St. Louis’ defense, and with that comes the responsibility of making calls in the defensive huddle. Considering he’s a rookie still trying to absorb the playbook and learn the ropes of the NFL, the added responsibility of relaying defensive calls from the sideline is significant.
But Laurinaitis explained that he’s been making calls on defense since he was a junior in high school.
“It’s a learning process, but I have been able to pick up on it pretty quick,” he said of adjusting to the NFL game. “I take pride in that, being dependable in the huddle.”
Laurinaitis’ impact hasn’t been noticed exclusively in St. Louis, either. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress, a Big Ten man himself, likely saw Laurinaitis play frequently while in a Buckeyes uniform and surely studied the LB during preparations for last year’s draft. The Vikings head coach is clearly impressed.
“I thought he had an ‘A’ football IQ,” Childress said. “Was and is going to be a very good football player. Smart, you don’t play in a program like Ohio State under the bright lights and not direct the show.
“He is making all the checks and he has a great aptitude. He’s a great kid and a hell of a football player. He will just be learning some of those hard lessons as you go. I don’t see him unlike I saw a (Chad) Greenway coming in at that point.”
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