James Richard Laurinaitis was born December 3, 1986. He is the son of former professional wrestler Joe Laurinaitis, better known as Animal, one half of the tag team The Road Warriors, and Julia Laurinaitis, a former body builder and full time mom. He has an older brother Joey who is a US Army Veteran and now police officer in the Dayton area of Ohio. Joey is married to Andrea Laurinaitis and they have a beautiful daughter named Claire. He also has a younger sister Jessica who is a interior design student at the Art Institute of Minnesota and has a beautiful son named Jacob.
Laurinaitis was touted in the NHL as a second or third round pick, but teams didn’t draft him because it was thought that he was more likely to pursue a football career. James was a successful hockey player in high school lettering three times for Wayzata High School and being named All Conference his junior and senior years as well as All State and team captain his senior year.
Football was always James first love though. He earned three letters in football as well, being named All Conference both junior and senior year, as well as All State and team captain his senior year. He was alsonamed Defensive Mr. Football in Minnesota in 2004. That season, he helped lead Wayzata High School to the state championship game in Class 5A with 193 tackles, including 28 for loss and five sacks. He signed with the Buckeyes, becoming Ohio State’s first scholarship football player from Minnesota since NFL coach Sid Gillman in 1930-33. James was recruited by Doc Tressel at Ohio State and is forever grateful the opportunity to play for the Buckeyes given to him by former head coach Jim Tressel.
As a true freshman in 2005, he played in all 12 games eventually reaching #2 on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker behind (current Detroit Lions player) Bobby Carpenter. After Carpenter broke a leg on the first play from scrimmage in their rivalry game against Michigan, Laurinaitis played the rest of that game, and also started in their Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame.
At of the end of the 2006 regular season, Laurinaitis led the team in tackles (115) and interceptions (5), and also had 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. In 2006 Laurinaitis won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player. Also in 2006, he was named a finalist for the Butkus and Bednarik awards. He was named First-team All-Big Ten in addition to being named to the Walter Camp and FWAA All-America Teams.
Laurinaitis won the Butkus Award for most outstanding linebacker in 2007. He led the team in tackles (121), had 5 sacks, and 2 interceptions. He was named captain as a junior and was the first junior captain at Ohio State under coach Jim Tressel. He was also named an All-American by multiple media outlets including; Walter Camp, FWAA, AFCA, Sporting News, AP, Rivals.com. He was honored as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2008 he named team captain again for the second year in a row. He was also named one of four finalists for the 2008 Rotary Lombardi Award(only Big Ten player in consideration for that award) and the winner of the Ronnie Lott Trophy for The Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year and the recipient of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. He was also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the nation’s top defender by the Maxwell Club of Philadelphia and one of five defensive players among fifteen finalists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award. He started all thirteen games, becoming the fourth player in school history to lead the team in tackles three times in a career, as he ranked second in the Big Ten and 14th nationally with an average of 10.0 tackles per game. He recorded a career-high 130 tackles that included four sacks, seven stops for losses and one QB pressure, caused a fumble, deflected four passes and picked off two others. Laurinaitis was named Big Ten defensive player of the year for the second year in a row making him the only player to ever win two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards (in both coaches and media).
Laurinaitis was drafted in the 2nd round 35th overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2009 NFL Draft, being the first Middle Linebacker taken. Laurinaitis earned the starting middle linebacker position during training camp his rookie year and led the Rams in tackles (120), had 2 sacks, 5 passes defensed, one force fumble, and 2 interceptions. He was voted the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award, which goes to the Rams rookie of the year. He was also named the to the NFL All-Rookie team by Sporting News.
In his second season Laurinaitis led the Rams in tackles again with 114. He added 3 sacks to that, 5 passes defensed, 1 interception and one fumble recovery.
In his third season Laurinaitis led the Rams once again with a team high 142 tackles, 8 of those being for loss. He also had 3 sacks, 7 passes defensed, and two interceptions. He was named as a Pro Bowl Alternate.