By Matt Thomas, Wayzata.com Sports Reporter
Wayzata graduate and Ohio State star linebacker James Laurinaitis was taken with the third pick in the second round (35th overall) in Saturday’s NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.
Laurinaitis helped to lead the Wayzata football team to the state championship game during his senior year in 2004. After playing behind standout linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter during his freshman year at Ohio State University, Laurinaitis quickly turned himself into one of the best defensive college football players in the country during his sophomore year.
After his sophomore year, Laurinaitis was awarded the Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the best defensive player in college football. After his junior year, he was awarded the Butkus Award, given annually to the best linebacker in college football. Laurinaitis was also named an All-American in each of his final three seasons at Ohio State.
Laurinaitis is expected to play middle linebacker in the NFL. The Rams currently have three other middle linebackers on their roster, most notably eight-year veteran Will Witherspoon who was third on the team in tackles last year with 72.
Laurinaitis will play for first-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was hired this winter after several successful seasons as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. The team is looking to rebuild after compiling a 5-27 record over the past two seasons. Laurinaitis and the Rams will get a visit from the Minnesota Vikings during week five of the 2009 NFL season on Oct. 11.