The Iroquois Nationals will return to the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships for the first time in eight years with a lineup that looks like a Thompson family reunion.
On July 10-19 in Commerce City, Colorado, five Thompsons will play on the Nationals roster — Tewaaraton Award co-winners Lyle and Miles, along with their older brothers Jeremy and Haina, and their cousin, Ty. And if that’s not enough, their father Jerome Sr. is on the coaching staff.
“It’s how we were brought up, doing our thing together as a family,” Jeremy told ICTMN. “Eventually we went off on our own paths. For us, this is about reuniting… That was one of our dreams as youngsters, to play together, and we’re going to get that chance this summer.”
Jeremy was the first in the family to play NCAA Division I lacrosse. He was a two-time All-American at Syracuse University and finished as the highest scoring midfielder.
He was also the first to play professionally. Thompson was selected in the first round (sixth overall) by the Hamilton Nationals in the 2011 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft. He was also picked in the second round (10th overall) in the 2011 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft.
The 27-year-old midfielder, who is in his third season with the Edmonton Rush, is a finalist for the 2014 NLL Transition Player of the Year award. He scored nine goals and 17 points last season and finished fourth in the league in both face-offs won (235) and face-off percentage (.540).
But the biggest transition he made was in his personal life. There was a time when it all could have come crashing down around him. The PBS documentary Medicine Game: Two Brothers, One Dream, was in progress and he and Haina were just starting to get some recognition for their lacrosse.
But with peer pressure, adolescent rebellion, and alcoholism all around—he started drinking, and took off the down the “black road” around the age of 15—Jeremy was fighting a bigger battle: Alcoholism.
It began when he started playing box lacrosse on the Six Nations reserve in Ontario, Canada. Things just spiraled out of control. “I got involved with the wrong people,” Thompson recalled. “I started hanging out with a different crowd and I felt like that took me away from my language and my culture. I was able to finally break away in 2009, when I started reaching out through some healing ceremonies and talking with the elders.”
His lacrosse didn’t suffer. He and Haina helped powerhouse OCC go 31-0 on its way to a couple of NJCAA championships. But the drinking created heartache and stress on friends and family. “I always looked up to him. So, I was probably the most upset because he was my role model,” Lyle told ICTMN. “Finding out he did something I looked down upon so much made me mad at him for awhile. But we’re too close of a family not to be able to forgive someone for stuff like that. You can learn from things by not living it. Me, Miles and Haina never have touched the stuff.”
They have since re-established their bond as brothers. Jeremy and Lyle have more in common than a love for the game and one another. Both are fathers of their own. Jeremy’s wife Sonja just gave birth to their second daughter, Sunshine. Their eldest Emery is two. Lyle and his girlfriend Amanda Longboat have two daughters Layielle and Mercy Miles.
Jeremy Thompson has made a substantial contribution to Indian Country, proving to others that it is possible to go to college, get an education and still be Native. “The best thing my father taught is about respect. Respect is about being humble,” he said. “That’s what me and my brothers are trying to do. We’re trying to be good examples and role models for the kids coming up behind us. Everybody grows up and has people that they look up to. There were a few in my time that were Natives, and I see that number growing. Your seeing more and more Native people realizing that these opportunities are out there and you can have fun with it. That, in a nutshell, as a family, is what we’re trying to do – encourage people to be the best they can be.”