by Pete Donovan
James Laurinaitis’s motto his whole life has been “Preparation today determines tomorrow’s success.”
Laurinaitis, the 2008 Lott IMPACT Trophy winner from Ohio State, has kept true to those words throughout a brilliant football career…and beyond!
At Ohio State, he was a three-time All-American and in the NFL he started every game he played over a seven-year stretch with the St. Louis Rams, who drafted him in the second round in 2019.
“I always wanted to be held accountable,” he said recently from his home outside Columbus. “I never wanted a coach to go to bed and have to worry about if I would be ready or not. I wanted to be available, sometimes availability is more important than ability.”
He was certainly available when it came time to tackle the opponent. He recorded 365 tackles at Ohio State and a remarkable 869 (124 per year) with the Rams. In 2012, he led the NFL in tackles.
Asked about his memories of the Lott IMPACT Trophy Banquet, he said: “It was first class and I knew it would be since it had Ronnie’s (Lott) name on it. It was awesome meeting Ronnie and in my NFL career every time we played the 49ers, I would see his name up on the stadium and think how amazing that I had a link to him.
“Winning the Lott was a special blessing,” he says. “I have the trophy right here in my office at home. I never thought I would win it, but was thrilled when it happened.”
James’ father Joe, a Hall of Fame wrestler, jumped from his seat and applauded loudly when his son won the award at the Pacific Club in 2008.
Laurinaitis is one of only two players to attend the award banquet twice. He was a finalist in 2007 when Glenn Dorsey (LSU) won and a winner the next year. Notre Dame’s Manti Teo’ did the same a few years later.
Now a successful media personality, Laurinaitis hosts a daily three-hour sports talk show in Columbus and in his third season as a college football analyst with the Big Ten network.
And again, his preparation is the key. “It was true in school when you studied for a test. You didn’t start studying on Thursday for a Friday test, you started on Monday. You wanted to walk into the test – or the football field – with confidence.”
Laurinaitis admits he spends a lot of time studying tape on the teams he will announce come Saturday and “I’m sure hoping we have a season.”
His faith is also a huge influence: “To me, there’s nothing that trumps my faith in Christ—not even an NFL career. Everything I have on this earth is borrowed. All that really matters is eternity. God has blessed me with a platform and with an opportunity to do something that I love to do. Out of my gratefulness, I give all that I have as if He’s the only One watching.”
A family man, he and his wife Shelly have two small daughters. He says much of the discipline he learned in football carries over to parenting. “No matter what you do, you have to be accountable.”