Growing up in the Buffalo suburb of East Amherst, Connor Fields was a huge fan of the Buffalo Bandits and went to many games with his family and with his friends and their families. He played with his youth lacrosse teams at halftime of Bandits games, but his dream was to one day put on a Bandits jersey and play on that very same field for the team that he rooted for as a kid.
That dream became reality on Saturday night when the 26-year-old Fields scored four goals and earned “Heavyweight Player of the Game” honors in the Bandits’ 16-9 win over the Calgary Roughnecks at KeyBank Center.
“It was a really special moment,” said Fields. “It’s always been a dream of mine to one day have that logo on my chest and play in that arena. It was awesome getting a win and it was awesome to see Banditland show up like they did.”
It was quite a journey for Fields to go from being a part of Banditland as a fan to hearing the cheers from Banditland as a player.
Fields, a 6-1, 180 pound forward with a left-handed shot, began his high school lacrosse career at Williamsville North High School. When his family moved to South Buffalo during his sophomore season, Fields transferred to Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School where he graduated before moving on to a brilliant collegiate career at the University of Albany. In 69 career games for the Great Danes, Fields racked up 199 goals (5th all-time in DI history) and 165 assists for 364 points (4th all-time in DI) in 69 games. He would lead DI in goals scored in two different seasons. To put his college career into perspective, he scored 25 more career goals than fellow Great Dane and NLL MVP, Lyle Thompson.
In 2018, Fields turned pro as he was taken third overall by the Charlotte Hounds in the Major League Lacrosse Draft and the San Diego Seals made him the 10th overall selection in the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft. Because of knee surgery, Fields did not make his NLL debut until week 17 of the 2018-19 campaign. He had two goals and three assists for five points in two games and then added a goal in the lone playoff game that he participated in.
The following season, Fields led all NLL rookies with 18 goals and 44 points in 12 games before the 2019-20 season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic that also wiped out the entire 2020-21 season. On the night of the 2021 NLL Entry Draft, Fields was traded to the Bandits for a 2021 first round pick and a 2022 second round pick.
His dream came true.
He was a Buffalo Bandit.
“I loved San Diego and the staff and the owners out there and the players so it was bittersweet,” said Fields. “I grew up idolizing the Bandits and always wanted to be a Bandit but at the same I loved being in San Diego. I can’t say enough how excited I am to be playing in Buffalo. It’s really been a dream of mine and a dream come true now.”
When Fields was in the stands as a fan, he paid close attention to star player John Tavares who is now the Bandits’ Head Coach. Tavares is the NLL’s all-time leader in games played (308), goals (815), assists (934) and points (1,749). The three-time NLL Most Valuable Player spent his entire career with the Bandits and joined the coaching staff as an assistant in 2016 and is now in his second season as Head Coach.
For Fields, playing for Tavares is about as surreal as it gets.
“He was my favorite player growing up,” said Fields. “I haven’t told him that but I grew up watching him play and his style. I tried to mix it in with how I play and try to learn from watching him play. He was a special player and it was really cool to be able to go see him play night in and night out. Every time you would go to a game he would put on a show.”
Fields may not have told Tavares that he was his favorite player, but NLL.com was able to get him that memo.
“It’s an honor that I was Connor‘s favorite lacrosse player growing up,” said Tavares. “I’m thrilled that Connor is now wearing the orange and black in his hometown of Buffalo playing in front of family and friends. Connor is a very athletic lefty who can score from the outside or inside and he has the ability to create his own shot. If Connor continues to score four goals a game, as he did in his first game as a Bandit, he will quickly become a fan favorite.”
The Bandits are feeling good about themselves heading into Saturday’s road game against the Rochester Knighthawks. There was a lot of excitement around the team during training camp and they certainly began the season on the right foot with their win over the Roughnekcs. But the Bandits aren’t about to rest on their laurels after just one strong contest.
“It was a really good game for us but it was just one game,” said Fields. “We don’t want to get too high emotionally off just that one game.”
Connor Fields is certainly living a dream right now.
As a child, he played lacrosse and fell in love with the sport while also falling in love with the Buffalo Bandits. He cheered the team on from the stands and he hoped that one day he would hear the cheers from Banditland in the event that he was able to not only play in the NLL but to suit up for his hometown team.
Watching John Tavares and his other heroes back in the day pushed him hard to make sure that his dream would come true.
“It was really exciting but also motivating to watch the Bandits play because you want to be on that field someday,” said Fields. “It’s really cool to go to the games but it’s even cooler to be playing in those games.”
And for Fields, things are really cool for that kid who once had a dream and is now inspiration for the next generation of youth lacrosse players in the Buffalo area.