When the San Diego Seals matchup against the Georgia Swarm on Friday night, the latest sibling combo to take the NLL by storm will battle against each other for the first time.
There have been dozens of brothers who have played with or against each other in the NLL since its inception, but few have possessed the offensive prowess of the Staats brothers, Randy and Austin.
Randy, 26, the eldest of the two Staats, has been a consistent offensive weapon since his entrance to the NLL in 2016. From his 95-point rookie season to surpassing 30 goals in each of his first four years, Randy has achieved heights that even some of the game’s greatest scorers never could. Yet, it seemed that even while Austin, 20, was still in his late teens, there was plenty of chatter that one day he could be even better than his brother.
In his rookie campaign, Austin is living up to the hype. Using his size, strength and stick skills, he has managed to put the ball in the back of the net with ease. Even while squeezing into a veteran-laden attack, Austin hasn’t had an issue racking up his fair share of points and is comfortably leading the league among rookies with 59 points to his name in 13 contests.
However, it is no surprise that both Randy and Austin have excelled at lacrosse. Aside from the fact that both were raised with sticks in their cradles, as is customary to do with Native American boys, to Randy’s knowledge, lacrosse has been passed down in the family for a minimum of three generations.
While they admit they played some hockey in the winter months, the Staats brothers can remember playing in their backyard as far back as their toddler years.
“Me and [Austin] always played lacrosse in the backyard,” said Randy. “We’d always go out there and battle each other. I never really went in net, so I’d throw him in net and we’d shoot around.”
As the years went on and the two honed their craft, Randy recalls seeing real promise in Austin’s game in his early teenage years.
“He was always bigger as a kid,” Randy said of Austin. “He had really good hands but he was never that fast growing up. He always had great hands, great vision, a great work ethic and always strived to be the best player he could be. I could see his talent at a young age.”
For Austin, growing up and seeing his older brother propel his way to stardom from The Hill Academy to Syracuse University and now in the NLL, motivated him to transform into an über-talented player in his own right.
“I always wanted to be better than [Randy] and do it while wearing the same number,” said Austin.
It can be said, though, that while there is a competitive edge between the Staats’, they both wish for each other to be the best they can and try to help each other reach levels of greatness.
“That’s what brothers are for: to have each other’s backs and help each other out,” said Austin. “I shoot him a text after every game and tell him how I played and ask him the same. We tell each other how we played well or why we didn’t play well.”
Randy and Austin have already shown great promise in the professional ranks, but the sky’s the limit for these brothers who have only played a combined five seasons in the league. As hard as it is to imagine, there is still plenty of untapped potential left in both these young players. The question is: when the time comes for Randy and Austin to retire from the NLL, where will they rank in terms of the best offensive brotherly pairs to play in the NLL?
When thinking of sibling duos that have graced the NLL’s floors, there’s a consensus that Gary and Paul Gait set the gold standard on offence. By the time they had both retired in 2011, the Gait’s had set the record for most points by siblings in league history with 1,877 while transforming the way the game was played along the way.
Other brothers have shown their tactical precision on the attack such as Casey and Ryan Powell, Rich and Darris Kilgour and Dan and Paul Dawson, but most younger fans would point to the Thompsons as the penultimate brother scoring duo.
This current generation of lacrosse fans may not have seen the spectacle that was the Gait brothers, Powells or Kilgours, but luckily for them, they’ve seen the rise of new sets of brothers in today’s modern NLL. Much of the attention over the last few years – and rightfully so when talking about offensively dynamic brother pairings – has been on the Thompson quartet of Lyle, Miles, Haina and Jeremy, specifically Lyle and Miles.
Just as the Gaits did, Miles and Lyle have excelled in the NLL and asserted their dominance over the last four years. With a league-MVP already to his name, Lyle has earned enough respect that defences have emphasized plans that specifically focus on him.
Now that Austin is proving that, he too, can bully opposing players with his skill set in only his rookie season, the Staats’ should enter future conversations of who some of the best brotherly pairs to ever play in the NLL were.
It may seem like a premature conversation to have considering how young Randy and Austin are, particularly Austin, but San Diego Seals head coach Patrick Merrill, who has coached both the Staats brothers at various points of their careers including being Austin’s current coach, believes that the pair’s unique abilities don’t come around often.
“I think they’re both generational talents,” said Merrill. “One’s a lefty and one’s a righty and they play the game a little differently. In terms of their body type and the way they execute on the floor, they’re also different, but I think there’s potential for them to leave strong legacies when it’s all said and done.”
Considering everything they’ve already achieved and the improvements they’ve shown, when their careers do come to a close and we think of the “Mount Rushmore” of offensively talented siblings that played in the NLL, there won’t be a discussion that doesn’t include Randy and Austin Staats.