September 7, 2014

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The All-Time All-Lacrosse Football Team: Defense, Special Teams, Coach

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

In the spirit of multi-sport participation and the National Football League season that has once again taken the nation's attention (I've never seen Baltimore sidewalks more empty than during a Sunday afternoon Ravens game), here it is: a look the best two-sport athletes — lacrosse and football — from the last 70 or so years.

I originally conceived this idea with the intent of filling all 22 starting spots on a football team, with lacrosse players. There would be 11 starting spots on offense and 11 starting spots on defense to form the All-Time All-Lacrosse football team. But while research, suggestions from Lacrosse Magazine staff, National Lacrosse Hall of Fame archivist Joe Finn, and other sources helped uncover many names to populate nearly a full football starting lineup, there were still spots to fill mainly along the offensive line. A full team, almost.

Instead, we'll go with the whole enchilada. In two installments — offense appears here and defense, special teams and coach appears now — here is as big a list as I could produce of lacrosse players who also dabbled in professional and college football, or vice versa. Some, you'll see, dabbled in each more than others. If you have other suggestions or corrections please contact me at cmclaughlin@uslacrosse.org or on Twitter @Corey_McL.

A couple hints at the list: I would take lacrosse's defensive front seven against any team. The offense would run through Jim Brown. (Pro and college statistics below are via Pro Football-Reference and College Football Reference, and there are links below to various sources used to compile the list.)


New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich played attack and midfield at Conestoga (Pa.). He even had an offer to play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins. (Courtesy Herzlich family)

DEFENSE

LINEBACKERS

Mark Herzlich
Lacrosse: Conestoga (Pa.)
Football: New York Giants, Boston College

Most people know Herzlich as the inspirational figure who defeated a rare form of bone cancer to continue playing college football and eventually with the New York Giants, where he was in his third season in 2013. But before all that, he was an All-Central League lacrosse player at Conestoga (Pa.) High outside Philadelphia. He played attack and midfield, and what he called a "big righty shot," in an interview with Lacrosse Magazine. He even had an offer to play at Johns Hopkins. Herzlich's dad helped start the youth lacrosse organization in Conestoga, and Mark said he will always remain close to the sport. "I will 100 percent play lacrosse again after football is done," Herzlich told Lacrosse Magazine in 2012.

Russ Swan
Lacrosse: Yorktown (N.Y.)
Football: Virginia

Swan played lacrosse at Yorktown (N.Y.) with the fame Nelson brothers. Swan racked up 186 points in his high school career, good for 20th in Yorktown program history. He started at linebacker for four years at Virginia (1982-85), and led the team in tackles his senior season with the Cavaliers.

Stan Cherry
Lacrosse: Morgan State
Football: New England Patriots, Baltimore Colts

Cherry, a member of Morgan State's famous "Ten Bears," of the 1970s, was an All-American linebacker, talented wrestler in addition to a lacrosse player, and a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder at that. He was signed by the New England Patriots in 1973, cut and picked up by the Baltimore Colts in 1973, where he stayed until being cut during training camp in 1974. He died in 1993 at 42 from an apparent drug overdose in Baltimore.

Luke Kuechly
Lacrosse: St. Xavier (Ohio)
Football: Carolina Panthers, Boston College, St. Xavier (Ohio)

The 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Carolina Panthers played lacrosse at St. Xavier from 2005-07 before going on to standout career at Boston College and early success in the NFL. He was the ninth overall pick of the Panthers in 2012. St. Xavier is the same alma mater of current Cornell junior midfielder Connor Buczek, who, like Keuchly, played lacrosse and football in high school. [Thanks to reader Alex Fowler for this suggestion.]

Steve Morrison
Lacrosse: Brother Rice (Mich.)
Football: Indianapolis Colts, Michigan

Morrison was a team captain at Brother Rice in lacrosse and started as a freshman at inside linebacker at Michigan. He ended his career first-team All-Big Ten in 1994, and played four seasons (1995-98) with the Indianapolis Colts, starting 29 games in his career. His final NFL season was Peyton Manning's rookie year with the Colts. Morrison is currently the linebackers coach at Syracuse, and was also previously an assistant at Michigan.


2011 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee Jon Reese was a two-sport star at Yale, where he was an attackman and middle linebacker. (John Mecionis)

Jon Reese
Lacrosse: Yale
Football: Yale

Reese, a 2011 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, was a two-sport star at Yale, where he was an attackman and middle linebacker. "You got to play with reckless abandon and play angry as well," Reese told Lacrosse Magazine in 2011 about his football career. "Then I was able to go out on lacrosse and be the goal-scorer. Another reason for going to Yale, other than because my brother was there, was because I could play two Division I sports." Reese, now an assistant for Long Island power West Islip (N.Y.), is widely considered the best player to ever play lacrosse at Yale. He set the NCAA single-season record for goals in his senior year (82) — a mark tied in 2014 by Albany's Miles Thompson — and remains Yale's all-time leader in goals (162) and points (200).

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Cody Grimm
Lacrosse: Oakton (Va.)
Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Virginia Tech

Grimm, the son of the Washington Redskins' former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Russ Grimm, helped lead Oakton (Va.) High to three state championships and was an All-American midfielder recruited by Virginia, Georgetown and Loyola, but chose to take a chance walking on to the Virginia Tech football team. Eventually, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft and played three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His younger brother, Dylan, was a co-captain as a senior defenseman for 2012 national champion Loyola.

Matt Elam
Lacrosse: Dwyer (Fla.)
Football: Baltimore Ravens, Florida

Elam was a star running back, safety, basketball and lacrosse player at Dwyer (Fla.) High and played football at Florida. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Another Dwyer lacrosse alum, Nick O'Leary, is currently a tight end for nationally-ranked Florida State.

Mike D'Amato
Lacrosse: Hofstra
Football: New York Jets, Hofstra

D'Amato was a second-team All-American attackman at Hofstra in 1968 and a star defensive back and kick and punt returner there. He was drafted by the New York Jets in the 10th round of the 1968 draft. He played 13 games for the New York Jets, including their historic win over the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 AFL-NFL World Championship (Super Bowl III).

Tom Myers
Lacrosse: Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.), Syracuse
Football: Syracuse, New Orleans Saints

At Fayetteville-Manlius, Myers started as an attackman in 1965, the second season of the program, and was a first-team Upstate Lacrosse Conference selection as a junior before moving to Connecticut for his senior year. Myers went on to college at Syracuse, where he was an All-American safety and where he also played midfield on the lacrosse team as a senior. Myers was selected to play in the 1972 North-South game, but when the New Orleans Saints, who had drafted Myers in the third round of that year's draft, found out he was playing lacrosse, they forced him to stop because it was in breach of his contract. Myers played 12 years with the Saints, was an All-Pro safety and was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1989. [Thanks to former Fayetteville-Manlius coach Tom Hall for this suggestion and the information included above.]

Doug Shanahan
Lacrosse: Team USA, Long Island Lizards, Chicago Machine, Philadelphia/Bridgeport Barrage, New York Saints, Hofstra
Football: New York Jets (tryout), Hofstra

Shanahan won the inaugural Tewaaraton Award in 2001 at Hofstra and was a three-time All-American defensive back for the Pride. He signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets, but was cut on the last day of training camp. That same summer, he won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2002 world championships, as the U.S. beat Canada 18-15. Shanahan was taken first overall in the 2002 Major League Lacrosse supplemental draft, played in eight MLL seasons and was also a member of the U.S.'s 2006 team. He is currently a teacher and boys' lacrosse coach at Pine Crest Prep in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Andy Beath
Lacrosse: McDonogh (Md.)
Football: Green Bay Packers, Duke
Beath was a standout in lacrosse, basketball and football at McDonogh (Md.) and played college football at Duke. The Green Bay Packers drafted Beath in the seventh round of the 1968 draft.

Jim Ridlon
Lacrosse: Syracuse
Football: San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Syracuse

Ridlon was teammates with Jim Brown in football and lacrosse in the 1950s at Syracuse, and was an All-American defenseman. "He could run, he could check people, he could clear the ball," Brown said of Ridlon in 2012. "He was quite the player." In football, Ridlon played eight NFL seasons, six with the San Francisco 49ers and the final two with the Dallas Cowboys. He was later a professor of art at Syracuse.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Tom Scott
Lacrosse: Virginia
Football: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Virginia

Scott, a College Football Hall of Famer, was an All-American defenseman at Virginia in 1953 and won a national championship with the Cavaliers in 1952. He was originally drafted in football in the fifth round of by the Los Angeles Rams and ended up playing 12 professional seasons (1953-64); six as an end with the Philadelphia Eagles and six as a linebacker with the New York Giants.

Chris Long
Lacrosse: St. Anne's-Belfield (Va.)
Football: St. Louis Rams, Virginia, St. Anne's-Belfield (Va.)

Long, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Howie, was the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft after an All-American career at Virginia. In addition to football, Long played lacrosse, basketball and baseball at St. Anne's-Belfield in Charlottesville, Va. Long finished his sixth season with the St. Louis Rams and in June married former Virginia women's lacrosse player Megan O'Malley.

Patrick Kerney
Lacrosse: Taft School (Conn.)
Football: Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Virginia

"Every kid that's ever picked up a stick loves the sport," Kerney said of lacrosse in a 2007 Seattle Times article. The 11-year NFL pro was defenseman at Virginia as a freshman for Dom Starsia before switching to football full-time during his time in Charlottesville. He became a first-round NFL pick and had a successful career with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, compiling 82.5 sacks. His final season was 2009.

Jim Campbell
Lacrosse: Navy
Football: Navy

Campbell was another football/lacrosse player at Navy in the Staubach era. In Michael Connelly's book "The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK," Navy assistant coach Steve Belichick, Bill's father, called Campbell the "greatest athlete he ever coached." Campbell was also a decorated fighter pilot who flew more than a hundred missions in Vietnam. He retired as commander and flew for Eastern Airlines before designing golf courses. Campbell passed away in 2006.

Current Bryant and former Team USA and Duke head coach Mike Pressler was a talented two-sport athlete at Washington and Lee. (John Strohsacker)

Mike Pressler
Lacrosse: Washington and Lee
Football: Washington and Lee

The current Bryant head coach and former Duke and Team USA head man was a first-team Division III All-American in football at Washington and Lee as a senior in 1981 and a first-team all-conference defensive lineman in 1980 and 1981. He was a captain in football and lacrosse, when Washington Lee was still playing the latter at the Division I level.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Joe Ehrmann
Lacrosse: Syracuse
Football: Baltimore Colts, Detroit Lions, Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers, Orlando Renegades: Syracuse

Ehrmann, author of the motivational book "InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives," lettered in lacrosse at Syracuse and was an All-American in football there. Ehrmann was the 10th overall pick in the 1973 NFL draft and played eight seasons with the Baltimore Colts and two seasons with the Detroit Lions, before playing a season each with the Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers and Orlando Renegades of the USFL. His son, Barney, played long-stick midfield Georgetown and is now with the MLL's Chesapeake Bayhawks. He was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America.

Paul Rochester
Lacrosse: Sewanhaka (N.Y.)
Football: New York Jets, Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Michigan State

Rochester played was an all-county defenseman and football player at Sewanhaka (N.Y.) High on Long Island and played football at Michigan State. He played 10 professional seasons as a tackle with the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and New York Jets and was a member of the Jets' 1970 championship team. He is one of only 20 players who played the entire 10 years of the AFL's existence before it merged with the NFL.

Gannon Dudlar
Lacrosse: Brother Rice (Mich.)
Football: Michigan

Dudlar played lacrosse with Morrison at Brother Rice and like him was an All-American. Dudlar went on to play defensive tackle at Michigan. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wrote in an April 2012 blog that both Dudlar and Morrison also played on Michigan's club lacrosse team in their senior year.

Tim Smith
Lacrosse: St. Lawrence
Football: St. Lawrence

The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder in his playing days, Smith was an All-American in football and lacrosse at St. Lawrence in the late 1980s.

SPECIAL TEAMS

LONG SNAPPER

Travis Tripucka
Lacrosse: Mountain Lakes (N.J.)
Football: St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, UMass

Tripucka, whose brother Jake was a midfielder for 2012 NCAA champion Duke and is now with the Charlotte Hounds and involved in the Team USA tryout process for the 2014 world championships, signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 as an undrafted free agent after playing college football at UMass. Before that, he played lacrosse at football in Mountain Lakes (N.J.) and was part of the New Jersey Group 1 state finalist lacrosse team. He most recently signed a future/reserve contract with the New York Jets, but was released after the 2013 season. Travis is the son of former NBA player Kelly and grandson of the late, former Denver Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka.

PUNTERS

Todd Sauerbrun
Lacrosse: Ward Melville (N.Y.)
Football: Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Florida Tuskers, West Virginia

Sauerbrun, a former US Lacrosse All-American, set the record for scoring by a midfielder at Long Island power Ward Melville, notching 109 goals and 24 assists in his high school career. He also still holds the New York State high school record for longest field goal (62 yards). No surprise, he was a punter at West Virginia and in the NFL for 13 seasons, where he was a three-time Pro Bowler.

Tom Gilburg
Lacrosse: Syracuse
Football: Baltimore Colts

Gilburg was Syracuse's "Athlete of the Year' in 1969. He was a first-team All-American in football and an All-American defenseman in central New York. Gilburg was the Baltimore Colts' punter for five seasons in the 1960s, and was a backup at other positions — while also serving as the Franklin & Marshall men's lacrosse coach from 1964-66.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (right) with Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala before the 2014 Hopkins-Maryland game.
(John Strohsacker)

"I had no previous experience coaching at all when I took that job at F&M," Gilburg said, according to Franklin & Marshall's website. "I was still with the Colts then and I wanted a place to workout in the off season. I went to F&M and Woody Sponaugle (the Director of Athletics) said I could use the facilities. He also said they needed a lacrosse coach. I had played lacrosse at Syracuse and liked the game." From 1966-80 he was defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and assistant men's lacrosse coach at Hofstra, and was head lacrosse coach at Lehigh before his final coaching job. He was head football coach of Franklin & Marshall from 1974-2002.

KICKER

Steven Hauschka
Lacrosse: Middlebury, Needham (Mass.)
Football: Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, North Carolina State, Middlebury

Another current NFL player, Hauschka played two years of lacrosse at Middlebury and a season of soccer. He only played football for the first time his sophomore year before landing at North Carolina State, where he caught the eye of NFL scouts as a kicker. Hauschka, now with the Seattle Seahawks in his sixth pro season, faced off in high school at Needham (Mass.) and he told Lacrosse Magazine in 2009 that he is related to Loyola men's coach Charley Toomey. Hauschka has made 94.3 percent of his field goal tries last year and won the Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

Head Coach

Bill Belichick
Lacrosse: Wesleyan, Annapolis (Md.)
Football: New England Patriots, New York Jets, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Wesleyan, Annapolis (Md.)

Lacrosse is not lacking for a prominent alum in the professional football coaching department. Bill Belichick, likely a future Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl appearances. He also played lacrosse and football at Annapolis (Md.) High and Wesleyan University, where he was captain of the lacrosse team as a senior. Belichick's daughter, Amanda, is now the head women's lacrosse coach at Wesleyan and his son, Brian, currently played at Trinity College. Another son, Stephen, played lacrosse and football at Rutgers. Belichick is close friends with Johns Hopkins men's coach Dave Pietramala.


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