Posted: Thursday September 28, 2006 11:44AM; Updated: Thursday September 28, 2006 3:29PM
Pro wrestler Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis was a member of the popular tag team the Road Warriors during the 1980s and 90s.
Laurinaitis says Hawk has sent him text messages wishing him luck before each game, while Carpenter and Schlegel have called to offer their support.
The Buckeyes' defense has allowed one touchdown in its last 10 quarters, hasn't given up a rushing TD and already has more interceptions (eight) than a year ago (six), but Laurinaitis says there's still much to prove heading into Saturday's clash at No. 13 Iowa.
"I feel like we haven't arrived yet," he said. "We're nowhere near as good as those three guys were last year, and that's not saying we're bad or anything, it's just saying that those guys were on a whole other level."
Against Texas, Laurinaitis took a step toward that level. During a 13-tackle performance in which James forced two fumbles and had an interception, his dad says there was a noticeable change in his son.
"Coming up at halftime, my wife hits me on the arm, she goes, 'Look at him. Look at his walk,'" Joe said. "I could see the same walk he had when he was in high school when he owned the high school his senior year. He was like a man amongst boys in high school. He had that same swagger in his step."
And that swagger hasn't left. He followed the win over Texas with nine tackles and an interception against Cincinnati, then added 10 tackles and another pick in the win over Penn State.
So far, football seems to be working out for Laurinaitis, but he has a future in the ring -- if he wants it. WWE head honcho Vince McMahon extended an offer to James while he was visiting his father's locker room after a match.
"We always talked about [that] as a last-resort kind of thing," Laurinaitis said. "I'm not focusing on wrestling right now."
But if he does decide to climb through the ropes, Dad says James would have no trouble following in his footsteps.
"He's definitely a natural at it," Joe said. "He's been like that since he was about six years old. He's natural at talking to people. He's natural at doing interviews. He's natural at kicks and punching guys, stuff that we do in our business. He could do it if he wants."
Playing in front of tens of thousands of college football fans, all while being alternately cheered and vilified? It has little effect on the Son of Animal. His dad says he has already seen it all.
"I think he's been around so many events that he's seen me appear, I think that helps him," Joe said. "He's been there in front and he's heard the cheers."
Just like his dad, James is making a name for himself in shoulder pads, although "LORE-A-NITE-US" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as "Animal."
"I've been getting my name pronounced wrong my whole life," he said. "I used to go to hockey tournaments and they wouldn't even pronounce my last name. They would just say 'James' and my number. It's one of those things. I'm used to it, but hopefully before the year is out, people will know how to say my name."