NFL: James Laurinaitis tells of his 'awesome childhood' and life under Jeff Fisher

Linebacker hoping to pin down Tom Brady's New England Patriots

By Rob Lancaster - Tweet me: @SkySportsLanny.   Last Updated: 23/10/12 5:03pm

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On Sunday James Laurinaitis will follow in his father's footsteps in stepping out at Wembley in football pads. The only difference is that his won't include a set of spikes.

The linebacker will be part of the St Louis Rams team when they take on the New England Patriots in London this weekend, as for the sixth successive year the NFL stages a regular season fixture in the capital.

It will be the first time the Rams have been involved in the International Series, though it won't be a maiden appearance by a Laurinaitis at one of the world's most famous sporting venues.

Back in 1992, Joe Laurinaitis - AKA 'Animal' - was at the old Wembley for SummerSlam, working alongside 'Hawk' in the famous WWF tag team 'The Legion of Doom'. The pair recorded a victory over 'Money Inc' (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster, for those of you who don't remember), meaning the pressure is on the younger Laurinaitis to maintain his family's perfect record on English soil.

Awesome childhood

"It was an awesome childhood," explained the Rams' second-round draft pick back in 2009. "I just grew up basically idolising my father, loved everything that he did, loved watching him on TV and definitely had friends that loved it as well.

"It was a good thing to be able to have a dad that not only had a cool profession that was totally different but, to me, was normal.

"When he came home dad was dad, he wasn't 'Animal' when he came home, he left that character on the road. He was coach Laurinaitis, or he was dad, so that was a cool thing for me but it was definitely unique.

"At the time I didn't really know it was unique, in fact when you're growing up that was just normal, to have your dad being a pro-wrestler, and I didn't find out I wasn't the norm until I got into middle school."

How normal it is to have a father who is known for wearing face paint and includes a finishing move called the 'Doomsday Device' - something Laurinaitis admits he and his elder brother used to practice on his poor sister - in his job is uncertain.

With his uncles, John and Marcus, also heavily involved in professional wrestling, it might have seemed obvious that a career inside the ring beckoned for Laurinaitis.

Instead, though, he decided to forget about top turnbuckles and focus on tackles; while wrestling was always there as a "back-up plan", his main focus was football.

He was a star for four years at Ohio State University, including twice being named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, before joining the Rams at the start of the Steve Spagnuolo era in St Louis.

"I've been a big sports guy since I was young. I played football, baseball and hockey, growing up and I really wanted to hopefully make it in one of the three," he said.

"Football was what I wanted to do when I got into high school and I just started to focus on football more than anything else.

"It (wrestling) had always been a back-up plan I would say, if things hadn't worked out I maybe had it tucked at the back of my mind.

"With my dad doing it and being very successful and my uncle is in the business right now behind the scenes doing some stuff, John Laurinaitis, there is definitely family connections if I ever needed to try it out.

"I hope I can play this game long enough that I don't need to do it but I think for the most part, if I have the kind of career that I want to have in the NFL then my body might be beat up to do some of that other stuff."

Tough times

"It (wrestling) had always been a back-up plan I would say. If things hadn't worked out I maybe had it tucked at the back of my mind."
James Laurinaitis

While Laurinaitis has been a shining light since being named a starter in his rookie season in the NFL, the franchise - once dubbed 'the greatest show on turf' due to the high-octane offense that steered them to Super Bowl glory in 2000 - have floundered in recent years.

Under Spagnuolo they mustered a mere 10 wins in three years, and a 2-14 record last season resulted in the coach losing his job. After trying their luck with a rookie, the Rams opted to go for experience, appointing Jeff Fisher.

The change seems to be reaping early dividends, too. This year the Rams have already managed more victories than they did in the whole of the last campaign and although they arrive at Wembley off the back of two straight defeats, they are still right in the race in the competitive NFC West.

"Coach Fisher came in with a kind of experience and that experience just shows," Laurinaitis said of his new boss. "The way he organised the off-season, the way he went through OTAs, the mini camps, the way he carries himself, he has this quiet confidence about him so that when he speaks he doesn't have to speak very loudly but when he does his words carry weight,.

"We also have basically a really young new team. We have 30 something guys on the team from last year that aren't on our team anymore so that's a big number when you consider 53 being the number and 30 something guys are new, a new squad, so it's a combination of things, but coach Fisher has done a tremendous job."

And could we see another Laurinaitis finishing move at Wembley, should the 25-year-old sack Patriots quarterback Tom Brady? What a rush that would be, both for father and son.

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