Name: James Laurinaitis
Hometown: Hamel, Minn.
High School: Wayzata
Position: Linebacker
Year: Senior
Last season: Butkus Award Winner; Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
This season: One of nine starters returning on defense; Will again anchor what was the nation’s top-ranked defense in 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring practice is a time for players to develop. It can be a time when jobs are won and lost and when that second or third teamer lays it all on the line, trying to catch the eye of the coaches in hopes of more playing time.

James Laurinaitis isn’t one of those guys. The 2007 Butkus Award winner had millions of dollars waiting for him in the National Football League and would have been one of the top players taken in April’s NFL Draft. Instead, after weeks of deliberation, the senior-to-be ultimately decided he wanted one more go-round with his teammates.

“You go through all these battles with the guys you came in with and I didn’t want to leave them. With our class we said, we came in together. Let’s leave together.’”

Some outsiders may be quick to point out the two-straight BCS title game defeats as one of the driving forces behind his decision to return. The thought hardly ever crossed his mind.

“It’s really tough to get to the national championship game,” he said. “So to say you came back to try and win that game … you have to be realistic and realize how hard it is just to get to that game. That wasn’t a big factor at all. If we would have won that game it would have been the same thought process.”

So as spring practice began Thursday inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility, Laurinaitis says he’s taking a little different approach this season. He’s using these next few weeks as an opportunity to not only sharpen his skills and prepare for his senior season, but also to make more of a conscious effort to help the younger players who will soon take his place.

“You always want to make yourself better, but I think you also help yourself mentally by taking the time to help some of the younger guys,” he said. “When you teach it helps you learn even more. This is their time to get some reps in because when the season comes around, it’s all business.

“This is a time where you have to get better. Right now everyone in the country is getting after it and you have to practice that way everyday. If you have a lazy or bad spring, it means your competition is passing you up. You have to have a good spring to have a good season.”

~ Adam Widman,