Award-winning linebacker Laurinaitis to return for senior season

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Two-time All-America linebacker James
Laurinaitis said Monday he will stay at Ohio State for his senior

"After a long thought process and strategic evaluation of the
pros and cons of this decision with my close family and friends,
I've decided to stay at Ohio State," Laurinaitis said in a
statement issued by the school.

Laurinaitis, a 6-foot-3, 244-pounder from Hamel, Minn., won the
2007 Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker and the 2006
Nagurski Award as the top defensive player in college football.

The Big Ten defensive player of the year this past season, he
set a BCS championship game record with 18 tackles against LSU in
the Buckeyes' 38-24 loss, their second in a row in the title game.

Laurinaitis, the son of WWE professional wrestler Animal from
the Legion of Doom, led the Buckeyes with 121 tackles for the

Most NFL mock drafts have pegged Laurinaitis as a high
first-round draft pick. During Ohio State's preparations for the
game with LSU he had batted away questions about what he would do
next season.

"I know I can still improve as a player, and I know there is
still much more to me and for the Buckeyes to accomplish," he
said. "I want stay a Buckeye for another season. You only get to
do this once, so I want to take full advantage. There are a lot of
things that money can't buy, and some of those things are the
experiences of a senior season."

Coach Jim Tressel disclosed in December that he had urged 13
juniors to file the paperwork with the NFL to receive scouting
evaluations to determine what round the players might be taken in
this spring's draft.

So far, only second-team All-American defensive end Vernon
Gholston has said he will give up his senior year to make himself
eligible for the draft. The deadline for third-year players to
declare their intentions is Tuesday.