CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FWAA) – Ohio State linebacker James
Laurinaitis on Monday night claimed the 2006 Bronko Nagurski
Trophy, which annually is awarded to the best defensive player
in college football.
nicknamed "Little Animal" in reference to his professional wrestling
father, "The Animal," is the first sophomore to win the award, which
is voted upon by the Football Writers Association of America
and sponsored by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
"It was an honor to be here," Laurinaitis said. "To be with this
level of players, it's kind of surreal, me being the young guy.
I was in high school when these guys were (already) in college;
I definitely could not have done it without the entire defensive
line and the whole defense."
The announcement was made Monday night at the annual awards banquet
attended by more than 900 people at the Westin Hotel where Northwestern
coach Pat Fitzgerald, the only two-time Bronko Award winner in 1995
and 1996, gave the main address.
Laurinaitis was the star defensive player on an Ohio State defense,
which ranked second in the country in allowing just 10.4 points
a game. He led the top-ranked an unbeaten Buckeyes (12-0) in total
"What I like about him is he is instinctive," said Fitzgerald,
whose Wildcats played against the Buckeyes this season. "He has
those things you like to see in a linebacker. He can run. He is
very physical against blockers and at the point of attack. And he
catches it extremely well. He had five interceptions. Those are
the things which stand out to me."
Over the course of the season, Laurinaitis posted 8.5 tackles
for 44 yards in losses, including four sacks for -40 yards. Playing
more like a defensive back, he intercepted five passes and had 56
yards in returns. He broke up a pass and forced three fumbles.
Ohio State's defense didn't surprise, Laurinaitis.
"We knew more focus would be on our offense," he said. "Anybody
who knew how many people we had lost on defense would be crazy not
to think that. But within the organization, we thought we had the
tools to replace those guys."
In Ohio State's early season showdown with defending national
champion Texas in Austin, Laurinaitis was named the Bronko Nagurski
Defensive Player of the Week when he made 13 tackles, forced two
fumbles and made an interception in the Buckeyes' victory.
Early in a scoreless game, Texas drove to the Ohio State 7 where
Laurinaitis forced a fumble, which was picked up by an Ohio State
teammate and returned to mid-field. The Buckeyes scored five plays
later to take a 7-0 lead. He also intercepted a pass early in the
third quarter, which set up another Ohio State score.
"After the game, I didn't think about the individual stuff,"
Laurinaitis said. "I was more thrilled we had gone into a hostile
environment and won a 1-2 matchup; I had a lucky interception. They
threw it right to me. The defensive line had a great rush. And the
ball just pops up (on the forced fumble)."
The award is given in memory of the legendary Nagurski, a former
All-American lineman at Minnesota (1927-29) and star for professional
football's Chicago Bears in the 1930s.
Other 2006 Bronko finalists were Mississippi linebacker Patrick
Willis, Florida defensive back Reggie Nelson, Michigan defensive
back Leon Hall and Clemson end Gaines Adams.
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization
founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate,
and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C. region. The club's
activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding
citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area
athletes and coaches. For more information, contact John Rocco
(704-347-2918 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit
organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 900 men and
women across North America who cover college football for a living.
The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists,
as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game.
The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations,
major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
For more information on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the FWAA,
contact FWAA executive director Steve Richardson (972-713-6198