With the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) season ending on a high note on August 26 when the Chesapeake Bayhawks overtook the Denver Outlaws and the National Football League (NFL) starting September 5, it is only appropriate to take a look at how these sports compare.
When football and lacrosse are used in the same sentence, one name always follows: Jim Brown. Not only was Brown an All-American and Heisman finalist at Syracuse University for football, but he also excelled at basketball, track, and lacrosse. He was a two-time All-American lacrosse midfielder who found the back of the net 43 times throughout 10 games his senior year.
Brown’s passion for the sport of lacrosse didn’t stop when he left Syracuse. He is currently the co-owner of the Chesapeake Bayhawks, who had a semifinal playoff win in their hands this season until it was snatched away by an incredible comeback by the Denver Outlaws. Brown and the Bayhawks were upset with the 13-12 playoff heartbreak.
One aspect of the game of lacrosse which attracted Jim Brown, along with so many other football players, is the speed of the lacrosse. Although football has thrilling, game-altering plays, players and fans are drudged through the boring 30 seconds between each snap.
Ryan Powell, two-time MLL MVP, said it best, “It (lacrosse) is meant to be outrageous, unadulterated, barrier-blasting, no-holds-barred, hair flying in the wind from the back of your helmet, laser beam time machine, faster than lightning in a bottle.”
How else does lacrosse compare to football? Just ask Dylan Grimm, Kevin Moriarty, and J.P. Dalton, three members of the 2012 NCAA National Champions Loyola Greyhounds. Football is in their blood; all three athletes have fathers who played in the NFL. All three lacrosse stars were stellar football players in high school, but they decided to follow their hearts and compete in lacrosse instead of football at the next level.
Dylan Grimm’s father, Russ Grimm, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his 11 season with the Washington Redskins as an offensive lineman. Russ’s physicality on the football field rubbed off on his son as Dylan was dubbed a “vicious hitter” on the football field by his teammates. However, when Dylan picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time, he discovered a passion he had not known before. When it came down to deciding to play football or lacrosse in college, his choice was easy. “I just liked lacrosse more. It was more fun,” Dylan commented.
Loyola’s co-captain, J.P. Dalton was also a two-sport athlete in high school, but growing up in Maryland, a lacrosse hotbed, Dalton said lacrosse was more popular than football. Dalton also commented that his football background helped with his versatility when it came to the different athletic aspects of lacrosse.
On the flip side, Kevin Moriarty grew up in Cleveland, a football hotbed. But when his family moved to Baltimore, Moriarty picked up a lacrosse stick during the Spring season and fell in love with the sport. However, he wouldn’t say which sport was is favorite, “I was just a football player during the football season and a lacrosse player during the lacrosse season.”
Loyola’s head coach, Charley Toomey, commented about the speed of lacrosse compared to football, “There’s not a whistle every 10 or 15 seconds, so it’s more of a free-flowing game.” He went on to say, “Football is always going to be popular, but I think going forward we’ll see a lot more kids who end up playing lacrosse who might have otherwise stuck with football.”
Thankfully for the aforementioned athletes and the thousands of other football-lacrosse high school players out there, the two thrilling sports are during different seasons, so playing both is an option. Our friends at Illinois High School Lacrosse compiled a list of reasons football players should come out to the lacrosse field. Key points include the following:
- College scholarships opportunities are available
- Increased fitness during football’s off-season
- Offensive agility and defensive strength translate well from football to lacrosse
- Lacrosse reinforces the importance of quickness and reaction
- The stick handling of lacrosse improves hand-eye coordination
Take a look at some football/lacrosse comparative facts and figures from the National Federation of State High School Associations:
- National participation in all high school sports has increased for the 23rd consecutive year.
- There are now 2,338 high schools with boys lacrosse teams compared to 992 ten years ago.
- This year there are 100,661 high school boys lacrosse players compared to 46,206 ten years ago.
- Today there are over 1.1 million high school football players in America.