Editor’s Note: This article, originally entitled ‘The Best Players You’ve Never Heard Of’ was originally published on December 15, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. It has been repurposed to best serve the lacrosse community.
Who are the best players you have never heard of? But really, how would you know unless you had already heard about them?
You could spend hours doing research, but it might take you awhile to come to a conclusion. That’s where I come in. I wrote the following post to bring to your attention the best lacrosse players you have may have never heard of. Test yourself. See how many of these guys you actually recognize. I have to be honest, a few of them snuck up on me…
The Tewaaraton Foundation hands out an annual honor called the Tewaaraton Legend Award, and it is a great way to connect the present to the past. The Tewaaraton was created in 2001, to honor amazing players like Jim Brown, Mike French, Frank Urso, Doug Trumbull and hundreds of others could be recognized that never had the chance to win it. The Legend Award changes that as each year a player from pre-2001 is, and will be, honored with the retroactive award. If they give out one award per year, this could last for decades.
So far, Jim Brown (Syracuse), Eamon McEneaney (Cornell), Joe Cowan (Johns Hopkins), Jimmy Lewis (Navy), and Brad Kotz (Syracuse) have all been awarded Tewaaraton Legend status.
Everyone knows of Brown as he’s in a couple halls of fame already (lacrosse and football). McEneaney was a man playing amongst boys for the Big Red, and was a gift to the game. Cowan is a Hopkins legend from the late 60s, and was a pure scorer. Jimmy Lewis was the best attackman in the game for three years, flew Top Gun style for the Navy, AND scored the only goal in Navy’s only national championship ever… in soccer! Kotz was a four-time All American, and a prolific producer for the Orange, respected by all in the community.
Basically, in order to win this award you need to be one bad man out on the lacrosse field! So who else out there from years past could qualify? Who are some of the other legends of the game? And which ones deserve to win a Tewaaraton Award retroactively for their efforts on the lacrosse field?
Ok, let’s start out in the most obvious place… the four-time FIRST Team All-Americans. There are only SIX of them, and one of them played Division III. Another actually won TWO Tewaaratons, so you know these guys are an absolutely elite bunch.
The Best Players You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of
Doug Turnbull – Johns Hopkins – 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 – One might think that the attackman of the year award for Division I, the Turnbull Award, is named after Doug, but it’s not. It’s named after Doug’s brother, Jack! Both played at Hopkins and if you’re talking skill, the award could really be named for either of them. Jack Turnbull is also obviously on this list! Doug was the first-ever four-time first-teamer. Turnbull also played football at Hopkins, leading the country in placekicking in 1923 and playing halfback. He also played any position on the lacrosse field except for goalie. Seriously. Turnbull passed away in 1996, but would be a magnificent honoree.
Everett Smith – St. John’s – 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937 – Smith twice led the country in goals, once as a freshman, and once as a sophomore. A native of Annapolis and graduate of the Severn School, he was an all-around athlete, and played four years of varsity in high school as well. Smith served three years in the Coast Guard doing troop transport during World War II, and had continued to play club lacrosse in Montclair, NJ up until that time. This was WAY before SJU dropped their program and then revived it. It’s an amazing piece of history.
Frank Urso – Maryland – 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 – In 1973, Maryland went 10-0 and won a title. In 1975 they won another title. The other two years, Maryland made it to the Division I finals. Urso was midfielder of the year in ’74 and ’76 and player of the year in ’75. There is simply no way he wouldn’t have taken the award in at least one of those years! He was a devastating player for Team USA as well, and has an accomplished high school coaching record.
Del Dressel – Johns Hopkins – 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 – Yes, Dressel played at the same time as Brad Kotz, who already won the award, but Dressel could have taken the hardware a couple of those years. It makes sense seeing as he was a four-time first teamer, and won titles his sophomore and junior seasons. He was also twice named midfielder of the year in Hop’s back to back title runs. Dressel was also a two-time All-American in high school. For those keeping count, that’s six All-American awards in total.
Jason Coffman – Salisbury – 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 – Sure, Salisbury is Division III, but Coffman was a four-time first-teamer, won two national titles, AND was a two-time player of the year. Oh, and did I mention his career point total of 451 is by far and away the most absurd stat ever? Salisbury played a lot of games back then, but 451 is ridiculous, and Coffman’s younger brother Josh was a star at Syracuse, so don’t knock the Division III hustle here. Coffman went on to play pro box lacrosse and I don’t think his record will fall any time soon, unless college teams start playing 25 games a year and Lyle Thompson is reincarnated as a 13-year old.
So, Who Else Is There?
OK, this list is FAR from complete, but it’s a pretty solid compilation of some truly amazing players from days gone by. You don’t have to be a four-time first-teamer to be a Legend!
Fun fact: the
Milt Summerfelt – Army – 1932, 1933 – Not only was Summerfelt an All-American football player, but he was also a monster on defense for Army, earning All-American honors twice. He went on to become a Brigadier General in the US Air Force. I know defense guys aren’t your typical winners, but Summerfelt was not your typical player.
Pete Swindell – Johns Hopkins – 1935, 1936, 1937 – Swindell was a three-time All-American defender for Hop, a two-time captain for the Blue Jays, played for Team USA, and served as a captain in World War II. He is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, as many of these men are! In the late 30s, you did not want Swindell covering you.
John Rust – Army – 1947, 1948, 1949 – Rust served as the captain of the Army team his senior year and was a three-time All-American in goal (once on the first team, twice on the second team). His record was 32-11-1 and he played in the North-South game. His 451 saves still rank in the all-time top ten in the NCAA and Army honors their top defensive player with an award in Rust’s name.
Bill Hooper – Virginia – 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 – Hooper was a four-time All-American as he made garnered those honors twice on the second team and twice on the first. His high school team went 59-0 in his four years of varsity lacrosse. He was a two-time captain at the University of Virginia, and had five assists for the South in the annual Senior game. Hooper went on to coach and officiate the game of lacrosse after graduating, but he was a four year terror for the Cavaliers.
Mike O’Neill – Johns Hopkins – 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 – O’Neill was a three-time first teamer, and still ranks highly all-time at Hopkins for scoring. He was the player of the year in ’78 when Hop won the title and he led them to the finals in 1977 as well. He was also the MVP of the 1978 NCAA tourney and went to be an assistant college coach for six years after graduating. He had a scoring touch like few others.
Paul and Gary Gait – Syracuse – More people you know! All-Americans, title winners, scorers at every single level. They are on the list through and through! They were just that good, and if the award were given out back then, the Thompsons might not have been the first brothers to share the award. I’d write more, but both Gaits easily qualify, and you already know this.
As I said above, this list is FAR from exhaustive. Lacrosse has been played since the early 1900s at US colleges, so to go all the way back you would need about 80 names! I came up with a bunch, now who do you have?
The Tewaaraton Award is open to suggestions, so if you have someone who really deserves a Legend Award, tell the Tewaaraton about it, maybe they will be honored in the future!
Please reach out to us on social media to suggest who YOU think the Tewaaraton Foundation should honor with the Tewaaraton Legend Award.
Via my Twitter, I had received some great additional names. Frank Urso had been called out, so has Oren Lyons. I also got a reply asking for someone from Hobart! That’s a great idea, but WHO?
Over on the LaxAllStars Facebook Page, people had dropped some GREAT names! In addition to who I named above we’ve gotten calls for Roy Colsey, AJ Haugen, Charlie Lockwood, Tom Marechek, Mark Millon, Kevin Lowe, Tim Goldstein, Tim Nelson, Petro, Larry Quinn, Tim Sears, Mark Douglas, Scott Bacigalupo, Jesse Hubbard, Jay Jalbert, Billy Miller, Devin Arkison, Brendan Schneck, Sal LoCasio and a BUNCH of other good suggestions all got laid out. Well done commenters!
Help me out here with some more suggestions! Comment away…