De’Niro Laster, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound outside linebacker from Cleveland Heights, recently committed to Minnesota after visiting the campus. Laster recently talked to GopherHole.com about his commitment and expectations for his freshman campaign.
Gopher Hole: You committed to Minnesota recently. How do you feel now that it has been a few days since you made your decision?
De’Niro Laster: I feel pretty solid. I feel good about it and everything. I can’t wait to get down there.
Gopher Hole: Have you heard from any other schools since you committed to Minnesota?
De’Niro Laster: They are talking to my coach. I am not going to put it out there because I don’t know for sure. Some schools have been talking to my coach, though, but I haven’t really got a chance to talk to my coach.
Gopher Hole: Are you going to take any other visits to any other schools?
De’Niro Laster: No.
Gopher Hole: What was the reaction from your friends and family when you announced that you were committing to Minnesota?
De’Niro Laster: They were very excited for me and everything. They know how far I have come and they just can’t wait to see me do great things.
Gopher Hole: You are not going to be playing in your homestate, but it has to be nice to play in the Big Ten and on the Big Ten Network, where they can watch you and or travel to a game against Ohio State or Michigan?
De’Niro Laster: Yes, sir.
Gopher Hole: What other schools were you down to before you committed to Minnesota?
De’Niro Laster: Illinois, Cincinnati and Penn State. They (Penn State) were looking at me and another kid who Minnesota had offered, but he went to Penn State and I went to Minnesota. There were more schools that were close to offering me and were still calling me like Ohio State and Nebraska.
Gopher Hole: Does it feel like a weight is off your shoulder now that you have committed? You can just relax and just enjoy your senior year.
De’Niro Laster: It is a weight off my shoulders, but I also have a chip on my shoulder because I feel that I am very underrated. I am just working hard and just starting working back again and I am going to try to go into college being able to have an opportunity to play as a true freshman. I believe that I can do that.
Gopher Hole: Are you playing any winter or spring sports?
De’Niro Laster: Track and that is it. Track and lifting weights.
Gopher Hole: What events are you going to do in track?
De’Niro Laster: I am just working out with the track team for my cardio and everything. I also go to speed training.
Gopher Hole: You are 6-foot-3 and around 220 pounds. Have you thought about what you would like to get up to for college weight-wise?
De’Niro Laster: Around 230 or 235.
Gopher Hole: Have they talked to you much about your expectations as a freshman. They lose a lot of senior linebackers. I know that you would like to play if you can. Is that something that you are going into the summer looking to hopefully play as a freshman?
De’Niro Laster: Yes, sir.
Gopher Hole: What things are you going to be working on to see if that goal can happen?
De’Niro Laster: Like I said, I’ll be working out to get bigger, stronger, faster and get physically prepared.
Gopher Hole: What was the main reason that you picked Minnesota over some of the other schools that were recruiting you?
De’Niro Laster: Just a great coaching staff. The all-around environment. The campus was great and right across from football field. The people are friendly. The football program is moving in the right direction. They are going to a bowl game. They are young. An opportunity to play early. Just a lot of factors. It was the right fit. Life after football, it is a great city.
Gopher Hole: Have you thought about a possible college major yet?
De’Niro Laster: Business.
Gopher Hole: Had you ever been to Minnesota before your official visit? Or was that the first time you had ever been up here?
De’Niro Laster: No, sir. That was my first time.
Gopher Hole: What all did you have a chance to do?
De’Niro Laster: I went to the Mall of America. I got to tour the stadium. It was nice. The campus, it was pretty nice.
Gopher Hole: Your senior year, you finished 8-2. There was some controversy about the playoffs after the school district prevailed on a motion for a temporary restraining order against the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association), only to have that later overturned. How tough was that to deal with and not make the playoffs?
De’Niro Laster: That was very tough. I felt that ever since I came into Cleveland Heights that we had worked so hard and it was very unfair that we didn’t get in. Sometimes you have to deal with it. It was very hard. We had the expectations that we could go to the state and win it all, so it was very tough for me and some of the other seniors.
Gopher Hole: Have you been in contact with any of the other kids who visited Minnesota the same weekend as you?
De’Niro Laster: Damien Wilson. He also committed. He is a linebacker.
Gopher Hole: Have you talked since he committed because he committed after you did?
De’Niro Laster: We haven’t talked since he committed, but we were talking before he committed.
Gopher Hole: Did you have a feeling that he might commit based on talking to him when you were here?
De’Niro Laster: Yes. I had a feeling that he liked it and everything. I think that his cousin is a running back and he likes it a lot.
Gopher Hole: Is that kind of nice knowing that you know somebody who is coming in with you and he also plays the same position as you?
De’Niro Laster: Yes, it is pretty nice. I also have one of my former teammates, Antonio Johnson, who is up there.
Gopher Hole: What does Antonio say about Minnesota?
De’Niro Laster: That he likes it. He loves it really. That he wouldn’t want to be any place else.
Gopher Hole: You have a unique name. When most people hear De’Niro they think of the actor, Robert DeNiro. How did you get that unique name?
De’Niro Laster: My mom’s favorite actor was DeNiro and then she also told that dinero is money in Spanish, even though it is not spelled that way, it means money. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to have a lot of money. It is De’Niro on my birth certificate.