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2019 Top 25 MAC Players: #14 John Lako, MLB, Akron

The exemplary senior linebacker helps usher in the first year of the Tom Arth era.

Akron University Zips MLB John Lako defending the Wagon Wheel Trophy against rival Kent State
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

John Lako’s college career at The University of Akron reflects the qualities of a quintessential Mid-American Conference football player: smart, tough, determined, and, ultimately, successful. Lako’s career did not start with a five-star rating or an avalanche of FBS offers. Instead, he walked on at Akron, eventually earning his way to a scholarship. Lako took the opportunities he had every year of his college career and has made the most of them.

Lako went to work his freshman year to little public fanfare as a 205-pound linebacker and finished the year as defensive scout team player of the year. From there, Lako worked his way up the depth chart, achieving Academic All-MAC status each season while transitioning from a part-time starter and special teams player his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, to a full-time starter his junior season.

In the process he gained about 25 productive pounds to achieve the size he needed to compete at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level of college football.

Lako’s statistics over his first three seasons reflect his maturation into one of the MAC’s best players. As a redshift freshman, he earned 36 tackles, one Tackles For Loss (TFL), one Passes Defensed (PD). The next season, Lako picked up 69 tackles, 4.5 TFL, two INT, one defensive touchdown, two forced fumbles

By the end of his first full year as a starter, the redshirt junior pulled in 126 tackles, 10 TFL, three PD and a fumble recovery.

Heading into his senior season, it won’t be any easier for Lako to make plays with teams likely scheming to minimize his impact given his success coupled with the notable loss of defensive talent from Akron’s 2018 roster.

In the pregame press conference leading up to Akron’s 2018 victory against the Northwestern Wildcats, Lako was already on the radar of opposing coaches as noted by Wildcats’ head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who called Lako "active, active, active."

And while Lako is on the radar of opposing coaches, fewer defensive players will be on the radar to start the 2019 season because the Zips lost 214 career defensive starts from last year’s team including LB Ulysees Gilbert III, who the Pittsburgh Steelers selected in sixth-round pick of the 2019 NFL draft.

But I can’t imagine Lako is concerned if he is a targeted by opposing teams as a key player because easy doesn’t fit the profile.

Selected Awards and Nominations:

  • Three-time All-MAC Academic team
  • 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Nominee
  • 2019 Phil Steele preseason All-MAC first team
  • 2018 All-MAC, third team
  • 2018 Harry “Doc” Smith Award (most outstanding defensive player in Akron’s junior class)
  • 2018 MAC East Defensive Player of the Week vs Central Michigan