INDIANAPOLIS — James Laurinaitis has a family legacy to live up to, and it has to be one of the most unique in the NFL.
His father, Joe, became famous to millions of professional wrestling fans as his alter ego, “Animal.” One half of the legendary “Road Warriors” tag team, Joe Laurinaitis regularly performed wearing a mohawk, face paint and an intimidating spiked version of football shoulder pads.
When James was a star linebacker at Ohio State, fans embraced him as “Little Animal,” and students wore a version of his father’s famous costume — often complete with a championship belt — to home games.
Laurinaitis laughed at the memory Wednesday during a conference call at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
“Yeah, that stayed at Ohio State for sure,” he said. “Yeah, those are good memories right there. There’s a couple guys here that still bring some of that stuff around, but a lot of it stayed in Columbus.”
Laurinaitis has forged a new identity with the St. Louis Rams. But he’s still living up to the family legacy as the leader of one of the most ferocious front sevens in football.
Along with all-pro defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long, Laurinaitis has formed his own intimidating tag team. And they’re giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
“They get after you,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said about the defense Indianapolis will face Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “They’re going to be up in your face.”
The Rams have 29 sacks as a team and lead the league in percentage of sacks per pass play. Quinn has done most of the damage with 10 quarterback takedowns, and Long adds 5.5.
Laurinaitis has two sacks, but that’s just a small portion of his versatile game. The powerful middle linebacker leads St. Louis with 67 tackles and has one fumble recovery. He also has the speed and athleticism to be a factor in the passing game, where he has four deflections and one interception.