Despite earning USILA All-American honorable mention and the Northeast Conference Player of the Year in field lacrosse for Hobart College, Frank Brown says he never “figured out” the sport until this year.
Brown, a Salamanca native and Silver Creek High School graduate, grew up playing indoor box lacrosse and never considered the field game until high school, then at Silver Creek. At Div. I Hobart, injuries slowed his career until his team-leading 44-point junior season and he only built on it last spring with 50 points on 32 goals and 18 assists. His breakout performance earned him attention from the outdoor Major League Lacrosse, where the Rochester Rattlers picked him 58th overall in May.
“I'M PSYCHOLOGICALLY tuned to the game of box lacrosse,” he said. “I feel like I finally figured out how to play field lacrosse my senior year in college. My last year I finally started to think, 'You know, I've got this game figured out.' When it comes to box lacrosse, it's like second nature to me. Every aspect of the game just makes a lot more sense to me than with field.”
So Brown set his sights primarily on the National Lacrosse League, the arena box league which included the Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks. On Monday night, the defending champion Georgia Swarm made Brown the first pick of the third round (24th overall) in the annual NLL Draft. Brown watched the draft on NLL-TV from home in Salamanca as he learned the team he’ll compete for a roster spot with once he signs a contract.
“I was pretty nerve-wracked the entire time,” he said. “I went through a similar experience being drafted to the Rochester Rattlers this summer, but growing up it was always a dream of mine to play in the NLL. I never really thought about playing in the MLL until I graduated from Hobart and people told me I was good enough and I would get drafted. The NLL has always been what I worked toward. So it was a pretty big night for me.”
Brown, who finished with 120 career college points, dreamed of joining the NLL following the Buffalo Bandits teams of his youth. Those mid-2000s Bandits competed for championships — winning in 2007 — with Native American stars he could identify with.
"GROWING UP I always went to the Bandits games,” Brown recalled, “back when they had a core group of natives there with Brett Bucktooth, Cory Bomberry, Delby Powless, Roger Vyse, some of their key players when they were at their best were Native American and it really opened my eyes to something that I wanted to do. If you go to Bandits games and there's 10,000-plus people there,it's a great environment. It's awesome."
In Georgia, if he signs a contract and makes the team out of training camp, Brown would join the defending champions. He's played with 2017 NLL and NLL Championship MVP Lyle Thompson with the Native Sons, winning the Senior B President’s Cup in Canada. Fellow 2017 Swarm draft pick Zed Williams (No. 4 overall) played with Brown at Silver Creek High School and with the Native Sons.
“The first time I played with Lyle I was 10 or 11 years old, same with Randy Staats,” he said. “I played juniors with Leo Stouros, I went to college with Ethan O'Connor (Hobart Class of 2013). Zeddy I've known most of my life and I played at Silver Creek. Johnny Powless as well, Miles Thompson I'm friends with, there's a lot of players on that team that I know. When you think of it that way, Georgia has the most personnel that I’m familiar with when it comes to being friends with players on the team.”
But being drafted to the league champions has its challenges too. On Wednesday, Brown said he’d been in the gym at the Allegany Community Center each day that week and would be back Thursday and Friday.
“Georgia is the defending world champs, their roster is loaded from head to toe, it's going to be a very difficult roster to crack,” he said. “I've got my work cut out for me in the next six or seven weeks. I've got to buckle down, get to work training, getting my body and my skillset into a position where I have a chance of making this final roster.
“It's all about improving every aspect of my physical abilities. I know how to play box lacrosse, it's just all about whether I'm going to be physically in the position that I need to be in order to make the roster.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at email@example.com)