Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman hired former Ohio State Buckeyes teammate and then-St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive graduate assistant on the Fighting Irish’s new staff. During an interview this week on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, Ohio, Freeman opened up about Laurinaitis’ transition so far.
“It’s been awesome, man,” Freeman said . “He’s great to have around. … It’s been awesome to truly have a friend here in the office that you can bounce ideas off of, but he’s a heck of a football coach. And he’s done some great things with our players, in terms of — you have some credibility because you played in the NFL for nine years, but he really has a connection with these guys. And obviously, he’s easy to gravitate to and has done a great job for us.”
Laurinaitis played at Ohio State from 2005-08, capturing a handful of honors with the Buckeyes during his All-American career. He was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and also a recipient of the Lott Trophy, Butkus Award and Bronko Nagurski Award during his time with the Buckeyes and reached the national championship game with the program during the 2006 campaign.
Laurinaitis became a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Rams, where he remained with through the 2015 season before joining the New Orleans Saints in 2016. In eight NFL seasons, he finished with more than 800 tackles, including 32 for loss, and 16.5 sacks.
"I've been poking around with the idea of coaching for a couple years now, and had tried a couple times here locally, and for whatever reason, the situation just didn't come about,” Laurinaitis said earlier this offseason.
Laurinaitis was also recently announced as one of 80 former players who are on the ballot for the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame due to his illustrious career with the Buckeyes. In his four seasons at Ohio State, Laurinaitis amassed 375 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 13.0 sacks and nine interceptions.
“It’s an enormous honor to just be on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot considering more than 5.54 million people have played college football and only 1,056 players have been inducted,” NFF president and CEO Steve Hatchell said in a statement. “The Hall’s requirement of being a First-Team All-American creates a much smaller pool of about 1,500 individuals who are even eligible. Being in today’s elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to have ever played the game, and we look forward to announcing the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class early next year.”
Austin Nivison contributed to this report.
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