Many Illinois State football players started playing the sport at the youth level. However, this is not the case for Australian-born Redbird punter CJ Laros.
The junior did not start playing until he was in high school when he played for the Centurions Gridiron Club, based out of Canberra, Australia, which competes in the six-team Australian Capital Territory Gridiron league.
“I didn’t play football until I was 15 years old and then I had a friend that said to come play,” Laros said. “I said I did not want to play, but I ended up playing anyway and giving it a go and I’m loving it.”
While playing in Australia, Laros had a desire to play college football in the United States after watching it on television.
“I watched college football back at home and I just really wanted to be a part of it,” Laros said. “I was told that I’d be able to do it one day, so that’s really what sparked it, and I really wanted to play in front of a lot of people and go to school in the United States.”
One of ISU’s in-state Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals showed interest in Laros at the conclusion of his Centurions Gridiron Club career. However, after playing in an all-star event in the U.S., that option was not available to him anymore. After playing football in junior college at Citrus College in California, Laros ended up playing in the MVFC for the Redbirds.
“I played in a competition in Queensland, which is North Australia, and got scouted by an old coach of BYU, so I kept practicing and practicing and was getting recruited by Western Illinois,” Laros said. “I went out to Los Angeles for an all-star game and they ended up not having a scholarship for me anymore. The guy who organized the all-star game for me told me to check out junior colleges in Los Angeles, so I did and [Citrus College] is where I’ve been the last two years and then transferred out here to ISU.”
In 2011 and 2012, Laros played in a total of 21 games for the Citrus College Owls, based out of Glendora, Calif.
In his freshman season for the Owls, Laros recorded 26 punts for a total of 972 yards, good for a total of 37.4 yards per punt. Laros’ season-long punt was 51 yards and he recorded one touchback, three fair catches and punted the ball inside the 20-yard line four times.
In his sophomore season at Citrus College, Laros punted 53 times and accrued 2,178 punting yards and 41.1 yards per punt. The kinesiology major averaged 44.8 yards per punt against Los Angeles Harbor on Nov. 9, 2012. Laros punted 10 times inside the 20-yard line, forced nine fair catches and earned a school record with the longest punt in Citrus College history of 75 yards against Chaffey on Oct. 6.
Now in his first year at ISU, Laros has punted 40 times this season for a total of 1,674 yards and an average of 41.8 yards per punt. Laros recorded a season-long punt of 63 yards, three touchbacks, nine fair catches, 18 punts inside the 20-yard line and seven punts of 50 yards or more.
Laros’ career-day as a Redbird came against Missouri State on Sept. 28, recording seven punts for 344 total yards and averaging 49.1 yards per punt. Laros registered a career-long punt in a Redbird uniform of 63 yards, tallied three punts of over 50 yards and had five punts inside the 20-yard line.
This performance resulted in Laros receiving the FCS National Punter Performer of the Week award along with North Dakota State’s Ben LeCompte.
“Honestly I had no idea about it until I got called from a guy back at home actually,” Laros said. “He said, ‘Congratulations on the award.’ And I was like ‘What award are you talking about?’ I checked it out and it’s pretty cool and I shared the award with the punter from North Dakota State, so it was a big thing and nationwide in FCS.”
ISU returns to action at 1 p.m. on Saturday at home against South Dakota.