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December 4, 2006
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ohio State middle linebacker James Laurinaitis won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night, awarded to the nation's best defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
The sophomore leads the top-ranked Buckeyes with 100 tackles and five interceptions. He also has four sacks.
The award was another victory for Ohio State over rival Michigan, with Wolverines cornerback Leon Hall was one of the five finalists. The 6-foot-3 244-pound Laurinaitis also beat out Florida safety Reggie Nelson. The Buckeyes will face the Gators for the national championship on Jan. 8.
Laurinaitis, the son of former pro wrestler Joe Laurinaitis better known as the "Animal," had to leave Charlotte before the award was given out so he could take a final exam on Tuesday.
The 14-year-old Bronko Nagurski Trophy is named after the late All-American at Minnesota in 1929. He led the Chicago Bears to three NFL championships and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Past winners include Warren Sapp, Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey, Dan Morgan and Roy Williams.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who won the award in 1995 and 1996, was the keynote speaker.