The New York Times has named the next “Wayne Gretzky-like” figure. But get this. It’s a college lacrosse player.
Lyle Thompson, Onondaga, his brother Miles, and cousin Ty, were featured in the Times article, published March 9. Lyle was singled out as a strong contender for the Tewaaraton Award, which is lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
In his sophomore season, according to the paper, Lyle finished one point short of tying the NCAA’s single season lacrosse record with 113 points on 50 goals and 63 assists in 17 games. But Miles and Ty are equally talented and both are also strong candidates for the honor.
Ironically, the award, which has been handed out 28 times (to one male athlete and one female) has never been given to a Native American player despite the fact that the sport is rooted in centuries of Native American traditions.
As the Times pointed out, the Thompsons chose a different path from previous Native lacrosse players. Instead of choosing to play at Syracuse University—the school that’s won 10 NCAA championships, and that’s viewed as the gateway off of the reservation for Native players to play Division I lacrosse—Lyle, Miles and Ty all choose University of Albany. Even Lyle and Miles’s older brother Jeremy played lacrosse at Syracuse.
“We wanted to do something different,” Miles Thompson, 23, told the paper. “We knew all of the big-time natives were already going to Syracuse. We wanted to try to make a difference on our own.”
““Syracuse honestly didn’t recruit both of us too hard,” Lyle Thompson said. “I think they just expected us to go there.”
Oren Lyons, of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, was one of the first Native athletes to play at Syracuse and the school can trace its history from the 1950s forward of at least one Native player being on its roster.
U of Albany can’t make that claim, so in effect, this move by the Thompson’s pushed open the door for other universities to recruit on reservations.
“They’ve led by example to a point where you see the younger kids talking about where they want to go,” said Vock, of Inside Lacrosse magazine.
The Thompsons were raised on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, but relocated to the Onondaga reservation, which less than 15 miles from Syracuse, but it’s a two-hour drive to the U. of Albany.
In the article, their father (Ty’s uncle) Jerome Thompson Sr., said that he trained his sons to use wooden sticks with a wooden box about two-feet wide with a round hole that can barely fit the ball.
“Everybody told me that my kids were going to be behind because I didn’t let them play in organized leagues,” Thompson Sr. told the Times. “I just let them talk. As a parent, I felt that I could put more hours into them.”
He also said that their connection with Native American fans is growing. “Because of the way they play, being all native and being on the same team, it’s something special for us as native people,” Thompson Sr. told the paper. “To come and build this program for other kids, to just come and step right on the field, it’s hard to do that.”