USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Whether you are a USF football coach or player, you are fair game for Michael Lanaris.
The redshirt junior linebacker takes his game very seriously, but get him on the practice field and it can be center stage for his comedic act.
"He says the craziest things," wide receiver Sterling Griffin said. "Things you'll never think of he will say and it just makes you laugh."
Lanaris' ability to bring levity to such a serious game is very much appreciated from a 3-0 Bulls team that has balanced a great amount of highs and lows very well.
"You have to keep it light," Lanaris said. "Some people get out there and drag. It's hot, people are tired and aching. You just have to step back, look around and realize how blessed we are.
"When you think about that, it just gets everybody excited," he added.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder marveled at Lanaris' gift of humor, calling him a "free-willed spirit," and said he brings the right mix to the table.
"He enjoys this game," Snyder said. "He works extremely hard at it and has life in perspective."
When it comes time to get serious, Lanaris takes off his clown makeup and puts on his game face about as fast as Superman changes clothes in a phone booth.
"When it's time to work, he works," Snyder said.
The proof is in the pudding, or pads in Lanaris' case.
The Lake Mary native has posted a team-high 20 tackles this year and is only 10 away from surpassing his entire total from last season.
"(Coaches) have put me in a great position to make some plays," he said.
Lanaris acknowledged being more comfortable in the defensive approach, which has been a contributing factor in his success.
"It's year two of the defense, year two with coach Snyder," he said. "Now that we're farther along, you can take your game from the basics and start expanding."
As much as Lanaris likes to joke, he likes to study the game of football. Ask any USF coach on the defensive side of the ball and they can tell you a time when the detail-oriented player has asked them a question.
"I just wear some of my coaches out," Lanaris said.
Lanaris used his knowledge and put it to good use in the Bulls' season opener, which proved to be his crowning achievement this year. He racked up 10 tackles and a pass breakup in a historic 23-20 victory at Notre Dame.
The icing on the cake was when Lanaris picked off a pass while the Irish were threatening to score in the red zone. The takeaway was a big reason the Bulls were able to pull out a win in South Bend and make it back into the Top 25 for the first time since 2009.
"It was definitely quiet in that place," said Lanaris about after he made the interception. "That's what we strive to do when we play on the road is to take over the stadium and kind of just quiet down the crowd in big situations."
Take Lanaris out of a game situation and quiet would not be a word you could use to describe him.
"We'll be in the team meeting room, it will be quiet, and he'll just bust out with an outrageous comment for no apparent reason," Griffin said. "He makes the mood right."
The Bulls have to be on their guard because Lanaris will bring a joke or a prank at any time.
"I kind of yell," he said. "I do random stuff."
"You have to have thick skin when you are around him because nobody is barred from his comments," Snyder said.
Need not to worry, USF fans. The mentally tough Bulls dish it back out without a problem.
"He gets it back; kids give it back to him. Coaches give it back to him," Snyder said with a smile.