Who is the face of lacrosse? I posed this question last week. Paul Rabil was the easy answer for the past 15 years. Rabil has moved from the field to the front office full-time. The game is in need of a face to connect with fans and younger generations. I came up with a list of the Top 5 names to consider.
- Blaze Riorden
- Lyle Thompson
- Trevor Baptiste
- Charlotte North
- Joey Spallina
I made my case last week for Blaze Riorden. He is a phenomenal athlete playing forward for the NLL Wings and goalie for the Chaos LC. Two other names emerged from the comments and replies to my story; Lyle Thompson and Trevor Baptiste.
Today, I will make the argument for Lyle. He is in his 8th year of professional lacrosse and just wrapped up his second season with the Cannons LC in the PLL. Lyle continues to be one of the top players in the game. This year he was awarded the Eamon McEneaney Attackman of the Year Award.
Lyle is one of the most creative and must-see players in lacrosse. He played with his brothers Miles and Ty and rewrote the NCAA record books. Thompson helped lead the Albany Great Danes to three America East Championships and back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2014 and 2015. Here are a few of his college highlights.
- 2x Tewaaraton Winner (2014, 2015)
- First-ever male to win the Tewaaraton in consecutive seasons
- First Native American to win the Tewaaraton
- Finished his career as the all-time Division 1 points (400) and assists (225) leader
- Had more than 120 points in a season two times (121 in 2015), (128 in 2014)
As a professional, Lyle has been a standout in the MLL, NLL, and PLL. He was the 1st overall pick selected by the Florida Launch in the 2015 MLL Draft. Lyle has won MVPs and championships as a professional in both the indoor and field game. In both of his championship seasons, he demonstrated that he was playing on a different level.
In 2017, Thompson captured the NLL MVP title and NLL championship with the Georgia Swarm. Lyle accumulated 116 points (45G/71A) on the season.
In 2019, Lyle won the MLL MVP title and MLL Championship with the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Lyle had an eye-popping 73 points (46G/27A) on the season.
Unlike many of the top players in the MLL. Lyle didn’t initially come to the PLL when it started in 2019. Lyle signed a long-term deal in 2017 that kept him with the Bayhawks in 2019 and 2020.
The Rabil brothers and lacrosse fans wanted to see Thompson come and play with the best in the PLL. Paul Rabil admitted as much in the Fate of Sport.
“At the heart of the PLL and MLL merger, bringing in Lyle Thompson.”
– Paul Rabil, PLL President
To be considered the face of the game, you need to be more than just a great player. For Rabil, that was being the sports ambassador and using the media to advance the game of lacrosse.
For Thompson, it’s his humanitarian efforts outside of the game of lacrosse. He was awarded the Welles Crowther Humanitarian Award by the PLL in 2022 for the second consecutive year.
Lyle has used his platform to help continue to connect the greater lacrosse community to the Creator’s Game’s indigenous roots.
“That’s where all the teaching are. Our culture, our law is nature. We personify that stick. My grandfather has played the game. My father has played the game. People say it’s our game, but it’s not our game. We brought it to the people of this earth. It was a gift to us from the creator, we’re just passing this on.”
– Lyle Thompson, PLL and NLL Player
Lyle has also used his platform to stand up to racism and injustice. Thompson himself had to deal with racist taunts in a 2019 incident in Philadelphia while playing against the Wings. Lyle responded to the incident by calling out the actions and talking about how his braid symbolizes PRIDE.
Over the past two seasons, Lyle has also worn an orange ribbon in his braid to raise awareness for the #EveryChildMatters campaign. The #EveryChildMatters campaign honors and remembers the 150,000 Indigenous children that attended residential schools in Canada between the late 1800s through the 1990s. There are an estimated 5,000 children that died under residential care. Those that survived along with their families still deal with and face the trauma of the abuse they experienced at their schools.
Lyle Thompson is a remarkable lacrosse player and an even more remarkable human being. This makes him an easy choice to be the face of lacrosse in 2023.