Texans safety Dominique Barber will square off against friend and former hockey teammate James Laurinaitis this weekend in Saint Louis.
When the Rams and Texans square off Sunday in St. Louis, the weather inside will be a climate-controlled 72 degrees. Outside, the temps will crawl just north of the freezing mark, but not by much.
Football weather? Yeah, maybe.
But it's better for hockey, as former stick and puck teammates Dominique Barber and James Laurinaitis can attest.
Barber, the starting free safety for the Texans, and Laurinaitis, the starter at middle linebacker for the Rams, grew up playing hockey in Wayzata, Minn., and remain friends.
Barber said he's not surprised by the success of the rookie linebacker from Ohio State, who entered Week 15 with a Rams' best 104 total tackles. Laurinaitis believes Barber is succeeding in large part due to his mental prowess in his second year out of Minnesota.
"I think Dom's a smart player," Laurinaitis said Wednesday in a phone conversation. "He was always a guy around the ball in college, and it seems like it's carrying over to the NFL. He makes a lot of tackles and is a sure tackler. To see him kind of doing that at the same level, especially coming out of high school having just that offer from Minnesota, I like stories like that - guys who have one or two college offers and then end up making it in the NFL. I always like following guys like that, and Dom's just another one of those."
While Laurinaitis heaps the praise on Barber's football skills, he also quickly points out Barber's shortcomings on the ice.
"Dom was even faster on ice," Laurinaitis said. "He was like that guy on (the Disney movie) 'Mighty Ducks,' if you've ever seen that, that could skate really fast but couldn't stop. That's how Dom was. Tell him that."
Barber chuckled upon hearing Laurinaitis' jabs.
"So that's how James is going to do things," Barber said. "Yeah, I was kind of like Luis Mendoza when I started playing hockey."
Hockey jokes aside, the bond the two players share is a tight one.
"Dom and I go back to, shoot, when we were five years old," Laurinaitis said. "And I was always watching him, even when he went on to play with the (Minnesota) Gophers, I was watching him and proud of him there."
Barber said he and Laurinaitis likely will hang out together a few times this offseason, and the Rams linebacker is fine with that. After all, the two spent a lot of time hanging out when Barber's older brother, Marion III, was a running back for the Gophers.
"Dom's been basically like a brother to me," Laurinaitis said. "I remember when Marion went off to college at Minnesota and his parents would drive to the road games, Dom would always stay at my place for the weekend. So we spent a lot of time together playing football and hockey, and I'm just glad to see him doing so well."