Dick Tressel was the longtime football coach and also served as athletic director at Hamline. He resigned from the Pipers in 2001 to join his younger brother, Jim, the new football coach at Ohio State.

Dick was the running backs coach and the No. 1-rated Buckeyes were getting ready to play the Gophers in October 2006. Tressel was being interviewed about the thrills he had being part of the Ohio State program.

One item he mentioned was this: "I had a chance to recruit James Laurinaitis, our linebacker from Wayzata. You will not find a young man more committed as an athlete and student at any level of college football."

Laurinaitis was a sophomore standout for a collection of Buckeyes that would reach the BCS title game. One year later, the Buckeyes again would play for the national championship.

In 2008, Laurinaitis was a senior and about to play the Gophers in the Big Ten opener at Ohio Stadium. The linebacker had been much honored by then and had done Wayzata very proud.

Brad Anderson, his high school coach, was asked about Laurinaitis and said:

"I had more than a few coaches tell me they thought James was making a huge mistake, that he would get lost among the four- and five-star recruits at Ohio State.

"I was pretty sure he could play because he was such a well-prepared athlete. We saw the way he prepared — better than any athlete we've had before or since — and that put him over the top."

Commitment. Preparation. Talk to any football coach who has been around Laurinaitis and you will hear those attributes to help explain his success.

And there's another one: durability.

Laurinaitis did not miss a game in four seasons at Ohio State. He has not missed a game in his seven seasons as a starter for the St. Louis Rams.

"I haven't missed a game since I started playing football in the fourth grade," Laurinaitis said. "I've missed a couple of practices, but never a game."

Laurinaitis is a religious man and gives thanks to God for allowing him to stay healthy. He also has given God as much assistance as possible in maintaining that health.

He works out arduously. He watches "what he puts in his body" when it comes to food. He routinely will use chiropracty, acupuncture and massage to start the recovery process after a game.

It almost seemed to be tempting fate to be asking Laurinaitis questions about his durability this week. The conversation took place a couple of days after the Rams lost their outstanding third-year linebacker, Alec Ogletree, to a fractured fibula.

"Alec was playing great; that's a tough one for us," Laurinaitis said. "We have a couple of guys who will step in and do a good job. And the linebackers as a group … we're going to have to do more, play a little better."

Ogletree's injury came in the Rams' 24-22 upset at Arizona on Sunday. It was a victory that put the Rams at 2-2 and back in the picture for a first playoff appearance since 2004.

Individually, Laurinaitis' season already was intriguing for what occurred in a 12-6 loss to Pittsburgh on Sept. 27. He had nine tackles in that game and surpassed Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen as the leading tackler in Rams franchise history.

The Rams have Laurinaitis' total standing at 927 tackles in 100 career games (all starts).

"It's humbling, and pretty crazy because I certainly don't put myself on the same level as Merlin Olsen," said Laurinaitis, 28. "I wasn't aware of Merlin's record until I was reading about A.J. Hawk, my teammate from Ohio State, leaving the Packers this offseason as their all-time leading tackler.

"I wondered who might be at the all-time leader for the Rams, and looked it up. I was surprised to find out where I was on the list. That's always a primary job for a linebacker, obviously — to get to the ball and tackle."

The Rams franchise dates to 1936 in Cleveland. They moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and then to St. Louis in 1994. They will soon be back in L.A., if owner Stan Kroenke gets his way.

"I would be lying if I said all the relocation talk hasn't been an issue for everyone," Laurinaitis said. "We have a fan base that wants to be excited, that wants to enjoy a victory like we had in Arizona, but it's tough for them when they hear repeatedly about relocation.

"They love the Cardinals here, for good reason, and the Blues are big, too, despite the playoff disappointments. It's harder being a St. Louis football fan, not knowing if the team will be here.

"As [coach] Jeff Fisher says, 'All we can control as players is what we do on the field. We don't have any say in the Los Angeles stuff.'

"Personally, my wife, Shelly, and I have a 1-year-old daughter and a nice property here for our four dogs to run. That might be tough to duplicate in Los Angeles."