For the Thompson trio, Ty, Lyle and Miles, it’s always been about playing the Creator’s Game.
The journey has been good and the national acclaim is mounting, but in the end, the University at Albany lacrosse players, Lyle Thompson (Onondaga), his brother Miles (Onondaga), and their cousin Ty (Mohawk) just want to play the game that the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy have played for centuries.
“It always gives me the chills when they call out the starting lineup at the beginning of the game and the first three names you hear are Thompson,” Lyle, a 21-year-old father of two, told ICTMN. “It’s a huge advantage when you’ve been playing with somebody for so long. We have such a good chemistry and know each other’s movements and what they’re going to do.”
Last season, the trio combined for 254 points (147 goals and 107 assists) to lead the defending America East Conference champion Great Danes to the NCAA national tournament. The Thompsons have formed one of the greatest attack lines in recent history and they are looking for a breakout season at NCAA Division-I lacrosse’s highest level.
“There’s been other brother combinations over the past 25 years, but there has never been anything like this,” said UAlbany head coach Scott Marr. “With the success Miles, Lyle and Ty have had here at Albany, I’ve met so many Native kids from different parts of state and Canada. The Augasaki (Mohawk) kids, the Conawagas Tribe up near Montreal, all want to go to Albany because of these guys.”
The Thompsons are soft-spoken, respectful young men content to let their accomplishments speak for them. They made the cover of the Inside Lacrosse February 2014 issue and all three go into the 2014 season as preseason All-Americans.
Lyle, who was the first Native American finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy last year as a sophomore, was selected as the Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Yearbook preseason Division I player of the year. He was also named the Lacrosse Magazine 2014 preseason player of the year.
Seniors Miles (Inside Lacrosse third-team selection) and Ty (Inside Lacrosse honorable mention) were both picked by the Rochester Rattlers in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Entry Draft last week. Once they conclude their senior season, they’re free to join the MLL for the 2014 season.
“I don’t think much about it because I know what we have to do and the work we need to put in,” Miles said about the media attention he’s received. “I love the game and I’m happy to be playing it. I just want to go out there and have fun.”
Ty grew up in the Mohawk Nation. He led the Great Danes in scoring last season with 54 goals and recorded his 100th career goal against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“It’s never happened before with two brothers and a cousin on the same attack line,” Ty said. “Growing up, we played with each other on club teams. So to be able to play with each other at the college level is a cool thing. We actually played against each other one time in high school in the state quarterfinals. (The Onondaga) beat us. It’s definitely better to play with them because we know each other so well, and it carries over to the field.”
The Creator’s Game has been a source of direction, medicine, family and cultural pride for the Thompsons for generations.
Last year, The Medicine Game: Two Brothers, One Dream, a documentary by Syracuse filmmakers Lukas Korver and Jason Halpin, featuring Miles and Lyle’s brothers Jerome Jr., and Jeremy, premiered on national television.
Growing up on the Akwesasne Reservation, both Jerome and Jeremy dreamed of playing at Syracuse University, but only Jeremy played for the Orange. The brothers led Onondaga Community College to two NJCAA national titles. Jeremy transferred to Syracuse as a junior, and was named an All-American in 2010. Jerome continues to play high-level box lacrosse at Akwesasne.
Jeremy is currently in his third professional season with the Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Nationals.
“My brother Jeremy was a big influence,” Lyle said. “When he was at Syracuse, he was coming back to the rez and taking language classes. That influenced me a lot. I feel obligated to learn the songs and language and stuff about my culture. Lacrosse is what keeps me wanting to learn more. You can go off to school, but at the same time, you know who you are and can be a part of the culture.”
Of course there was that time when the Thompson clan was divided back in 2011 during the game between Syracuse and Albany. Jeremy was in his final season with the Orange and Miles and Ty were beginning their careers with the Great Danes.
Jerome Thompson Sr., who has never missed any of his son’s collegiate careers games, had the answer.
“He wore a T-shirt with orange on one side and purple on the other,” Miles said.
Miles, Ty and Lyle have one more college season together. The future is bright with professional careers on the horizon, but Marr believes their legacy at Albany goes far beyond the playing field.
“They put us on the map, that’s for sure,” Marr said. “Kids can see they’re able to play the game at a high level, but we really stress the education part. Overall, they’ve done a really nice job in the classroom. People on the reservation are taking notice of that.”
No. 10 Albany opens the season on February 16 at No. 2 Syracuse in a monster rematch. The Great Danes upset the Orange last season in double overtime.