A week-long series on Ohio State’s Big Ten Medal of Honor finalists continues today with a profile of football linebacker James Laurinaitis. A second-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Laurinaitis, who earned his degree in March, was a standout in the classroom, winning the Lowe’s Senior Class Award

James Laurinaitis is the most decorated linebacker in Ohio State history. A three-year consensus All-American, he won the 2008 Lowe’s Senior Class Award and the Lott Trophy as college football’s IMPACT Player of the Year which emphasizes integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity in a college defender. He was voted Big Ten defensive player of the year during both his junior and senior campaigns and won the 2006 Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player and the Butkus Award in 2007 as the top linebacker, all major awards and the most ever won by a Buckeye.

Laurinaitis was part of four Big Ten championship teams and four BCS bowls, twice playing in the national title game, setting a BCS record with 18 tackles in the national championship game against LSU. Laurinaitis never missed a game during his Buckeye career. He played in all 51 games during the last four seasons, started all 39 games the last three seasons, led Ohio State in tackles three straight years and finished his career seventh on Ohio State’s career tackle chart with 375, finishing just behind Buckeye greats such as Pepper Johnson, Chris Spielman and A.J. Hawk.

Part of the first Ohio State team to beat Michigan five consecutive years, he passed up the NFL after his junior season to return and complete his degree and collegiate career at Ohio State. A two-time team captain and a March honors graduate in communication, the Hamel, Minnesota, product was drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams with the third pick in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

The Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor
In 1914 the Conference established a Medal of Honor to be awarded annually at each member institution to a student in the graduating class.  An additional award for the top female was instituted in 1982.  Chosen by the Athletic Council, the winners of this most prestigious award are the male and female senior student-athletes who have attained the greatest proficiency in both academics and athletics. This honor includes a $5,000 post-graduate scholarship which can be used at an institution of the recipient’s choice.

Ohio State’s men’s and women’s Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients will be announced at the 2009 OSU Scholar-Athlete Dinner at the Columbus Convention Center Wednesday, May 20.

With Honor series:
Day 1: Steven Moneke, men’s tennis and Kim Reeder, softball
Day 2: James Laurinaitis, football and Jayme DeLancy, synchronized swimming
Day 3: Alyssa Meyer, women’s gymnastics and Jake Bateman, men’s gymnastics