League adds two more members of today’s most iconic lacrosse family
The dream of being drafted and having the opportunity to play in the National Lacrosse League recently became a reality for 55 players at the 2014 NLL Draft on Sept. 22 in Toronto. And on top of all the blockbuster trades, one of the most intriguing storylines to emerge from the weekend was the league’s addition of two more members of the iconic “Thompson Brothers” lacrosse family.
After one of the most successful seasons in NCAA lax history at the University at Albany, Miles Thompson was drafted in the first round (3rd overall) by the Minnesota Swarm while his cousin Ty Thompson was selected in the third round (26th overall) by the New England Black Wolves.
The reigning co-winner of the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s version of the Heisman Trophy, Miles shared the honor with his younger brother Lyle, who now enters his senior season with the Great Danes. Miles matched the NCAA single-season record with 82 goals and ranked second all-time with 119 points (82+37) last year. Lyle, already slated as a top pick in the 2015 NLL Draft, set the new collegiate record with 128 points (51+77) this past season while tying the assists mark with 77 helpers.
Having put together an impressive NCAA resume himself with 154 career goals, which ranks fourth all-time at Albany, Ty was a two-time All-American Honorable Mention.
But first, there was Miles & Lyle’s older brother, Jeremy. The former Syracuse University standout, who was the 9th overall pick in the 2011 NLL Draft by the Buffalo Bandits, is now a key contributor for the Edmonton Rush.
The 27-year-old was drafted the same year as his brother Jerome, who found out how difficult it is to make an NLL roster. Having made it and quickly developing into one of the league’s top players, Jeremy has a wealth of knowledge on what it takes to play at the game’s highest level.
And on top of the experience he has to offer, Jeremy serves a role model for his younger brothers, all of whom represent the Onondaga Nation, and cousin Ty, who hails from the Mohawk Nation.
“It’s very exciting for me,” said Jeremy, who was one of three finalists for the 2014 NLL Transition Player of the Year award. “Miles and Ty have accomplished so much throughout their careers so far and continue to bring their best effort forward. For Miles and I, it all started in the backyard. In a way, it’s going to be a resemblance of backyard ball and the memories we made growing up as youngsters.”
With an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and the realization that their lifelong dream has come true, Miles and Ty are confident and willing to put forth the effort to crack the rosters for the Swarm and Black Wolves this year.
“It felt amazing to be drafted to the New England Black Wolves this year because ever since I was a kid, it was my biggest dream to be in the NLL,” Ty said. “My grandparents used to take me to Rochester, Buffalo, Albany or even Philadelphia to watch NLL games so that taught me a lot and made me want to get into the league even more.”
Now entering the next chapter of their lacrosse journey, Miles couldn’t agree more about how much it means to play among the game’s elite.
“The thing I look forward to most about the NLL is being able to play the game of lacrosse as a professional athlete, especially as it has been my goal since I was a kid,” he said.
Having complete faith in his little brother and cousin, Jeremy believes they will both be very successful. Their rise to prominence continues to show how Native American players can have an impact on the sport that they invented hundreds of years ago, a game still woven into the fabric of their culture.
“More and more, Native players are taking the game seriously and are wanting to become elite players and perform at the highest level of lacrosse,” Jeremy said.
Lacrosse has always been a family affair for the Thompson’s as their loved ones continue to be a huge part of their individual success. Offering support, words of wisdom and valuable lessons, the young stars have never been short on fans and supporters in which they all agree have greatly influenced them and made them the men and lacrosse players they are today.
“My family are the biggest supporters for me in my lacrosse career,” Ty said. “My parents, siblings and grandparents are all a huge part of it because they have supported me since Day One and I appreciate them for that. Without them, I would be nothing.”
Lacrosse is more than just a game to many Native American players and the Thompson family is a prime example.
“Lacrosse is definitely a part of my identity,” Miles said. “Lacrosse is more than just a game to me. It is a way of life being Native American.”
Jeremy and Jerome’s lacrosse odyssey was highlighted in the highly-acclaimed PBS documentary The Medicine Game, which followed the brothers for over six years and helped capture the strong influence the game has had during their lives.
“You’re given a mini traditional wooden stick in your cradleboard when you’re born,” explained Jeremy. “And when you pass on from this world, you’re given one in your coffin.”
As positive influences for young lacrosse players from all backgrounds, all three seem to embrace the role, especially as leaders in the Native American community.
“I do see myself as a role model for the younger Native American lacrosse players,” Ty said. “My reason for this is because it is so hard to get off the reservation and pursue your goals. There is so much talent on the reservation where a lot of it doesn’t go far. I feel Miles, Lyle and I, even along with the other Native Americans in (NCAA) Division I (lacrosse), inspire a lot of kids to want to take the college path and use their talent the way they should.”
The National Lacrosse League remains as one of the most prominent platforms for indigenous players to show off their athletic talents and receive praise for their invaluable contributions to lacrosse.
After all, the three-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks’ roster features several high-profile Six Nations players including 2014 NLL MVP Cody Jamieson. The dynasty team is owned by Mohawk member Curt Styres whose passion for lacrosse and the Native community is unrivaled.
Adding to the already-strong presence is the fact that the Black Wolves became the second Native American ownership group when the Mohegan Tribe purchased the franchise this past summer. The team will play home games at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
However, the popularity of Native lacrosse isn’t limited to the Northeast. The Thompson Brothers were a main attraction at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver this summer, where they helped take home the team’s first-ever Bronze Medal with the Iroquois Nationals.
And at every reservation they visit, both near and far, they have younger kids coming up to them asking for tips to get better. And sometimes strong life lessons translate well to lacrosse.
“My parents brought me up to be drug and alcohol-free,” Miles said. “I’m 23 years old and happy to say I have never touched a drop of alcohol or a drug and I thank my parents for that.”
Indisputably proud of their culture and their upbringing, the Thompson lacrosse family views the sport as a way of life. And their ultimate goal is to grow the game while continuing to embrace their Native American roots.
“The advice I would give to all young players wanting to play professionally one day is to keep the lacrosse stick in your hands as much as you can, watch lax highlights, or study certain players’ games,” Ty said. “Never give up on reaching your goals.”
With the new year and start of the 2015 NLL season right around the corner, both the lacrosse and Native American communities are very excited to watch the Thompson Brothers reunite and play not only against each other, but also the rest of the best lacrosse players in the world.