Six-foot-5 Mentor (Ohio) junior Tadas Tatarunas has the frame, the game and the name to garner widespread recruiting attention, but he’s gone a little under the radar.
Tatarunas in his second year as Mentor’s starting quarterback and has led the Cardinals back from a 2-4 start to within reach of the state playoffs.
He’s still searching for his first offer, but he has picked up interest from a plethora of Big Ten schools including Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue.
Tatarunas spoke with Land of 10 about everything from LeBron James to reality TV in this week’s “Beyond the Game Q&A.”
Q: First off, where does your name come from?
Tatarunas: “My dad’s parents lived in Lithuania, and then they left because of World War II. Then they moved to Australia for 10 years, and then they finally moved to the United States, and that’s when they had my dad. They were immigrants, so I’m Lithuanian from him, but also my mom is Lithuanian from her grandparents, so I’ve got Lithuanian from both sides of my family.
“I do have family in Lithuania, but they’re not as close. But the one cousin I have that I’m pretty close with, his name’s Vytautas. He actually played Division I basketball at Tulane. He lived in Lithuania, and then he came over and played in high school for a prep school down south. And then he played at Tulane.”
Q: What would you do if you won $1 million?
Tatarunas: “Of course, I would give some to charity, give money to those who don’t really have much, because I think I’m pretty well off with what I have. I’d also put money in the bank, and I’d really want to take my family out for a vacation somewhere.”
Q: Going off of that, what would be your dream vacation spot?
Tatarunas: “I always wanted to go to Australia because it’s all the way on the other side of the world. Since my grandparents lived there for 10 years, I’d like to see how it is there. I’d just love to go there.”
Q: What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Tatarunas: “The best vacation I’ve ever taken was probably in 2006. My family, there was about 30 of us, and we all went to Cancún, Mexico. It was my family that lives in my house with a bunch of cousins, uncles and aunts, and all the grandparents went when they were still able to walk.”
Q: What’s your go-to snack?
Tatarunas: “I do love Cheez-Its or Goldfish or pretzels. That’s definitely a go-to snack I’d always pack for school.”
Q: What TV show can you not miss an episode of?
Tatarunas: “Probably ‘Survivor’ or ‘Big Brother.’ My family and I, it’s always something we’ll do. Every Wednesday, we’ll watch ‘Survivor.’ Every Tuesday, we’ll watch ‘Big Brother’ together, and it’s just time for us to hang out with each other during the week.”
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
Tatarunas: “If I had to pick one, it would be anything with Will Ferrell. I just think he’s so funny. So probably like ‘Step Brothers’ or ‘Talladega Nights’ or one of those types of movies.”
Q: What actor would play you in a movie?
Tatarunas: “I don’t know how to answer that question. I think I’d play myself. I’d play that role.”
Q: What’s your favorite subject in school?
Tatarunas: “Math, because that’s what I want to major in when I’m in college, something in finance or accounting.”
Q: What band can you not stop listening to?
Tatarunas: “My favorite band in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s what my parents listen to, and that’s what I grew up listening to. I definitely always listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers because that’s just what I love.”
Q: How would your friends describe you off the field?
Tatarunas: “They would say that I’m outgoing. People might be intimidated of me, because I’m a big guy, but once you get to know me, I’m friendly and just a really good guy, I believe.”
Q: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Tatarunas: “One time, me and a couple buddies from the football team went to one of our old teachers’ house to do some landscaping. She had a deck made out of bricks that she wanted to get rid of. We had to go over there and take out all the bricks and put them behind her shed, which was awful. I had so many blisters and calluses.
“We didn’t have gloves at first, and then like after an hour, she gave us gloves, because she saw we were struggling. It was this past summer.”
Q: What’s your biggest superstition?
Tatarunas: “Before every game, I always have the same routine. I’ll wear the same hat for every pregame. We’ll do warmups, and I always wear the same Under Armour hat that I’ve worn for three years. I’ll wear the same undershirt under my jersey, which is this really cool Nike shirt. I definitely have to wear that before every game.”
Q: Who’s your biggest celebrity role model?
Tatarunas: “Definitely LeBron James. Growing up around Cleveland and just watching him play and knowing that he grew up in our backyard, I’ve followed him all my life, and I just really look up to him for who he is as a person and how good of a player he is.
“In this past season, he just led his team to victory. He didn’t have to score all the points. He gave his teammates a chance, and he was just a great leader during the season.”
Q: And what’s your biggest celebrity encounter?
Tatarunas: “I did meet LeBron James at a basketball clinic when I was really into basketball in middle school and elementary school.
“I did have a chance to talk to him. It was after a camp. I think he signed a basketball of mine. It was like a little foam ball. I’m not sure where that’s at.”