Laurinaitis To Take His Rightful Place In Ohio State HOF

By Jeff Rapp, June 16th, 2018

At places like Ohio State, star football players stand out in a crowd and even manage to highlight a Hall of Fame class.

That was the case earlier this month when the university announced a 10-member 2018 class to be inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame and the most recognizable name was that of former star linebacker James Laurinaitis.

That, of course, is no knock on athletes such as gymnast Brandon Wynn and soccer superstar Cassie Dickerson, who also are extremely well deserving.

Laurinaitis, though, arrived to campus with a famous father – Joe Laurinaitis, who earned professional wrestling fame as the Road Warrior Animal – surpassed his three-star ranking as a high school prospect, flourished in the middle of a stellar OSU defense and went on to a long and prosperous career in the NFL.

A product of Minnesota, Laurinaitis and his number 33 jersey were all over the college football field from 2005 to 2008. In fact, he led Ohio State in tackles as a sophomore, junior and senior, earning consensus All-American honors after each of those seasons. Only seven other Buckeyes have been three-time All-Americans – a group that includes Chic Harley, Archie Griffin and Mike Doss.

Laurinaitis finished his career with 375 total tackles, seventh-best in Buckeye history. He was a two-time team captain for a defensive unit that led the nation in total defense in 2007 and was among the top 15 defenses nationally every year he played. He was unbeaten in games vs. Michigan (4-0) and an Academic All-Big Ten selection.

Laurinaitis also was a winner who was a key member of four Big Ten Conference championship teams. Twice he helped the Buckeyes to the BCS championship game and set a championship game record with 18 tackles in the 2008 title game vs. LSU.

He has been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s most outstanding defensive player as a sophomore, took home the Butkus Award as America’s top linebacker as a junior and became Ohio State’s first winner of both the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award as a senior. He was a finalist 12 times for national awards during that three-year period.

Laurinaitis, a 2009 Ohio State graduate with a degree in communications, was drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. He spent seven seasons with the Rams and left as the organization’s all-time leading tackler. He also played one season with the New Orleans Saints.

The remainder of the 2018 class of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame is as follows: Dick Bruggeman (men’s track), Dickerson (women’s soccer), Greg Drown (rifle), Linda Haussener (field hockey), Ray Hupp (men’s track), Bryan Koniecko (men’s tennis), Mike Pucillo (wrestling), Jerry Welsh (men’s hockey) and Wynn (men’s gymnastics).

The 2018 class will be officially inducted at a dinner Sept. 7 in the Ohio Union and introduced to the public at halftime of the Ohio State home football game vs. Rutgers the following day.

The Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame was created in 1977 and has inducted 426 athletes, coaches and administrators through 2017. Bruggeman and Hupp will bring the total of men’s track and field inductees to 33. Drown is the first male from the rifle program and the third overall to be selected. Wrestling will have 16 inductees with the addition of Pucillo and Wynn will bring the number of men’s gymnasts enshrined to 11.

Haussner will be the eighth field hockey player added to the Hall and Dickerson will be the fourth women’s soccer player to be enshrined. Laurinaitis will be the 123rd football alum added to the Hall and Welsh will be the sixth member of the men’s hockey program. Koniecko will join six other men’s tennis standouts in the Hall.