Lyle Thompson just may be the best Native American lacrosse player playing today. On May 30, he was in Washington, D.C., for the 13th annual Tewaaraton Awards presentation. Though Rob Pannell of Cornell took home the trophy, awarded annually to the top male and female collegiate lacrosse players in the U.S., Thompson says he was honored to be among the five male finalists. He is the first Native American to be named a Tewaaraton finalist.
A member of the Onondaga Nation, Thompson was named the America East Player of the Year, a first team All-American and took home the 2013 United States Inside Lacrosse Association Lt. Col. J.L. (Jack) Turnbull Award for being the top NCAA Division I attackman this year. Thompson, only a sophmore at the University at Albany, led the nation in scoring this season, racking up 113 points on 50 goals and 63 assists, which was two points shy of breaking the all-time NCAA record set by Steve Marahol (114 points in 1992). He was the nation’s leader in points per game with 6.65, which is the 13th highest points per game for an individual in NCAA history.
One thing that makes Thompson's time even more special at UAlbany is that he gets to play with family: Brother Miles and cousin Ty. The Thompson Trio was a special attack group overall this past season Lyle, Miles and Ty tallied the nation’s highest point total as a starting attack group with 259 points. (Watch: NCAA on Campus: the UAlbany Thompson LAX Family)The next closest attacking group is Cornell’s Tewaaraton Award-winning Pannell, Steve Mock and Matt Donovan with 196. Both Miles and Ty were named honorable mention All-Americans.
During the Tewaaraton Awards ceremony, hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, ICTMN caught up with Thompson to talk about the Creator's game. (Watch an ICTMN exclusive video: Lyle Thompson talks about the Creator's game at the Tewaaraton Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 30.)
How long have you been playing lacrosse?
I don't know, I was maybe two or one when I started. I look at my nephew, my brother's son, and he is already trying to scoop up a ball and passing it. He is only 18 months. I have been playing organized lacrosse since I was seven years old. But, as soon as I could pick up a lacrosse stick and I could walk, I was playing around with my stick, and throwing the ball around with my brothers.
Is lacrosse more than a game?
Every game I play, I am thinking about traditions, the Creator and why I am playing this game. Before every game and after every game I am just thankful to be playing the Creator's game.
Do you attribute any of your lacrosse success to being a Native American?
I think it is more about when you're growing up and you are playing lacrosse your whole life, it is more just that than being Native American. I guess, in a way it is an advantage because to us it is a lifestyle and not just a game.
How does it feel to be named one of the top five male collegiate lacrosse players in the country?
It is just an honor and I never really thought about how big of a deal this is. Once I came into this museum and began looking around at all of the other Native American stuff here, it makes me realize this is big and it is an honor just to be a finalist. Just looking at it and knowing it is Native American art…it just means more to me now.
Have you had a chance to reflect on your season?
I was just thinking about my year, and the other day I was talking about it with my brother and getting All-World best midfielder [editor's note: Lyle was named to the All-World Team at the Federation of International Lacrosse 2012 U19 World Championships, at which he helped lead the Iroquois Nationals to a phenomenal bronze medal-winning result, beating the U.S. along the way] and coming here and just processing what I have accomplished this year, I am just grateful and honored to play the game and be here.
Do you have any words of advice for young lacrosse players just getting started?
I kind of took this from Michael Jordan, but, "learn to love the game." Once you love the game, it just takes you on to another level of accomplishments and you try harder. It is just more than a game when you love it, and you love it so much that you are willing to do anything to have fun and be successful.