From South Africa to Miami: Northwood’s Laros commits to FIU

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/11/21

PITTSBORO — His journey took him nearly 8,000 miles from South Africa to Pittsboro.

Now, he’s headed an extra 800 to Miami.

Northwood senior placekicker/punter/linebacker Aidan Laros has …

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From South Africa to Miami: Northwood’s Laros commits to FIU

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PITTSBORO — His journey took him nearly 8,000 miles from South Africa to Pittsboro.

Now, he’s headed an extra 800 to Miami.

Northwood senior placekicker/punter/linebacker Aidan Laros has committed to Florida International University, where he’ll compete for the starting kicking — and possibly punting — duties for the Golden Panthers next season.

“I’m extremely excited. It’s taken a huge weight off of my shoulders,” said Laros with a sense of relief. “I started kicking my freshman year, but I never really knew that I could go to college for it until about a year ago.”

‘Rugby was always my way of going to college’

Laros’ father hails from South Africa and his mother from the United States. Laros was born and raised in South Africa until he was 14 years old, when his family moved to North Carolina and he prepared to attend Northwood for his first year of high school.

Growing up, Laros played rugby his entire life.

Rugby is one of the most popular sports in South Africa — along with cricket and soccer — and Laros felt it would one day be his way of attending a good school.

“Rugby was always my way of going to college, I always wanted to go D-I for rugby,” said Laros.

After moving to the United States, Laros quickly realized the lack of popularity surrounding rugby, so he opted to play football as a way to make friends at Northwood.

Despite this, his rugby career didn’t stop once he got to the United States.

Since arriving in N.C., Laros has played rugby across the Triangle, has represented the U.S. in countries such as Ireland and Canada and has a decent shot of making the under-18 rugby national team, which often plays against the under-18 Canadian team. In short, his passion for his home country’s sport is still alive.

Unlike football, however, rugby is not one of the 19 men’s NCAA-sanctioned sports and can only be played at the club level in college, governed by USA Rugby. Laros had always hoped to go to a larger school, of which many don’t have serious rugby programs.

When it was time to make his college decision, choosing between pursuing rugby or football, the size of the school, along with a couple of other factors swayed his choice.

“The top rugby teams are mostly smaller colleges and you don’t really get scholarships for rugby, it’s mostly academics, whereas, in football, I can always get a scholarship,” said Laros. “Just how you get treated as a football player at a university in America is pristine.”

Thus, his commitment to FIU, which was made in late January.

If Laros can win a starting spot for the Golden Panthers, he’ll likely be eligible for a scholarship in 2022, a major incentive for any student-athlete.

Making connections

Laros began kicking for Northwood’s junior varsity team his freshman year, where he also played running back. They needed a kicker, and since he had experience from rugby, he filled the void.

His sophomore year, he was pulled up to varsity and kept kicking, steadily improving, but it wasn’t until the end of his junior year when he knew he could end up going Division I.

One major roadblock, however, was unlike many Division I-committed specialists, he spent very little time at the nation’s major kicking camps, including Kohl’s Kicking Camp, where kickers, punters and long snappers often put themselves on the radar of larger football programs.

“It’s a lot of money you have to pay,” said Laros. “And at the time, I didn’t really know about them, I guess.”

Instead, he worked with the connections he had at Northwood to draw the attention of schools like FIU.

His teammate, long snapper and fellow linebacker, Jake Mann — who committed to The University of Oklahoma last Wednesday — got him into one camp in Florida, where Laros describes his performance as “OK.”

While he drew some attention from attending the camp with Mann, he was also aided by the connections of Bill Renner, a former NFL kicker and longtime high school head coach, who was on Northwood’s staff last season and has helped train Laros.

Renner is the father of former UNC and NFL quarterback Bryn Renner, who is now the quarterbacks coach at FIU. A reference was put in for Laros there and a relationship was born.

While these connections may have helped Laros get noticed by FIU and other schools, they’re far from the sole reason why he made it to the Division I level.

Athleticism, range and leadership

If you hear Northwood head coach Cullen Homolka talk about Laros, one phrase comes out often: “natural athlete.”

“He can compete at any level, he’s just a natural athlete,” said Homolka. “I’m going to probably play him at quarterback this year, that shows you the kind of athlete he is. But he’s a good leader, he shows up and he works hard, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Laros, who is capable of both kicking and punting, said, if needed, he could kick an in-game field goal of 50-plus yards. The longest field goal he’s ever made, outside of a game situation, is 63 yards.

Over the last six months, Laros has been working with coaches to improve his leg even further.

While he hasn’t been able to work out in person with trainers due to the coronavirus pandemic, he’s done lots of high-intensity training, kicking lots of balls and working to perfect his technique.

“Now, coming into this year, I’ve kind of toned it down a bit — I mean, I still kick pretty often, but I make sure I stretch a lot, get my flexibility in and I go to the gym every day with my brother,” said Laros. “It’s more just making sure I’m consistent with it, getting my technique down, just thinking through the right things in my head.”

Laros will have one final season at Northwood playing offense, defense and special teams, with games beginning Feb. 26. Then, it’ll be on to Miami, where he’ll fight to earn the starting kicker job as a freshman at FIU.

Next season, Laros hopes to be a leader on the team, despite his position and youth.

“I’m a guy that will just do what I’m told to my full potential, I do it 100% of the time,” said Laros. “I know a kicker going to a big college like that isn’t much of a leader, but within the special teams group, I’m definitely going to help people out when they need it.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.


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