Most brands wouldn’t think its a good idea to write a feature story on an athlete that’s the face of a competing company, but to be honest I don’t care — Kyle Harrison is important. Most Syracuse guys would cringe at the idea of writing a story about a Blue Jay — again, I don’t care — Kyle Harrison is cool.
There are few people in the lacrosse world that I respect as much as #18 and let me tell you why.
I first heard of this young skinny kid from the Friends School in Baltimore my sophomore year in college. Practice was wrapping up in the Dome and Coach Simmons III was giving us a run down on who to watch out for in our next game of the season, Johns Hopkins. He talked with our defensive unit and told each of them who they’re responsible for guarding and then he said, “they have this new kid too, he plays smart, he faces off, he plays great defense, he’s got a good stick, he can shoot, he can pass and he has a first step like Mike. His name is Kyle Harrison.” At the time, to be completely candid, I didn’t think too much of it. I was so laser focused on our team and our success that I didn’t have the desire to learn anything about other players. That’s why I always hated scouting reports, it never changed the way I played.
So we hopped on the bus and headed on down route 81 to Homewood Field. We lined up for the first face-off and I got my initial look at Kyle. He looked like a Freshman, tall and super skinny — his feet and his helmet looked way too big for his body. If you’ve ever played Ice Hockey for Nintendo, he reminded me of one of the “skinny” guys. I learned really quickly however that his game was mature and way, way beyond his years. The first thing that struck me was how he stayed on the field after face-offs. If he won the draw he stayed on and played offense, if he lost the draw he stayed on and played defense. I absolutely loved this. At this particular time in college lacrosse I would say 90% of teams, including us, were committing to utilizing FOGO’s (players that simply face-off and then get off the field). I hated seeing that and still do very much, so to see a two way midfielder like the good old days was super refreshing.
I watched him play offense and he immediately reminded me of a former Hopkins great that played against my brother Ryan — AJ Haugen. He was slippery and found shooting seams really well. But the thing that struck me was he didn’t take chances and never seemed to make any mistakes. His game was clean. It was different than mine in that sense, I took lots of chances — too many perhaps. But it wasn’t until the ball rolled behind the cage in the first period when I really understood that Kyle was different. Somehow in the scrum of it all I ended up with the ball behind and Kyle guarding me. Now at this particular point in my college career I was used to getting shut off by my defensemen and double teamed very quickly. So when I saw that I had a short stick guarding me, let alone a freshman, needless to say I was ready to rock and go get us a goal. Well, as you can see from the footage here, #18 proved he wasn’t your average midfielder and the Blue Jay fans knew it and loved him immediately.
My junior year we met again, this time in the Final Four. Hopkins was crushing us. So bad in fact that Coach Desko asked me to go take a face-off against Kyle. Up until that point I hadn’t taken a face-off since I was probably 11 years old and it showed. He effortlessly raked the ball to himself picked it up and started running. I was never any good at defense. My personality doesn’t fit the defensive mold. I am way too impatient and completely obsessed with the ball. I blame it on years of my brothers playing keep away from me. I can’t help myself from always chasing the head of the stick. I remember one of my college coaches describing my defense as an “8 month old labrador retriever in a zoo full of squirrels”. On this particular play I got an up close and personal look at a move that I’ve never seen anyone do as effectively in all of my years of watching lacrosse and probably never will. As most of you know, Kyle Harrison’s split dodge is absolutely bonkers. In fact, I think we should all stop calling it a split dodge because thats not what it is. Its like when you watch Allen Iverson do a cross over dribble, it happens so fast that you feel like you blacked out for a second. Well that is what happened to me on the lacrosse world’s biggest stage that year and luckily Lacrosse Magazine was there to capture my two second late over the head check attempt and publish it!
Alright, I’m done talking about Kyle Harrison the player. Now its time to talk about the real reason I respect Kyle.The first time I met him off the field was at a post season All-American banquet. He was standing with his parents. They all had giant smiles and seemed so warm. The conversation was so real, positive and respectful. They seemed to be excited and engaged in the conversation. It wasn’t the normal small talk that I was used to at these events. I have learned throughout the years that’s how the Harrison’s roll — they are genuine people and a perfect example of a terrific family. One conversation with his Father Miles and his Mother Wanda and you’ll get a clear understanding of why Kyle is the way that he is. Kyle is truly one of the greatest people we could have representing our sport. He embodies everything great about lacrosse. The athleticism, the passion, the creativity and the positivity. He doesn’t promote lacrosse, he supports it. He cares for it very deeply and openly shares that emotion in everything that he does.
If you ever have the chance to speak with Kyle Harrison, even if its just for a moment, you will know what I’m talking about. He will go down in the history books as one of the greatest all around pound for pound players ever but what he has done for lacrosse and continues to do off the field will live on forever. He is incredibly humble and quick to shed light on other amazing people in the world. As a member of the lacrosse community I would like to thank Kyle for representing the sport and its ethos in such a thoughtful fashion over the past 15 years. There are kids all over the world right now in their back yards trying to mimmic the Kyle Harrison split dodge and that makes me smile — the game is in good hands.
Here is a fun and relevant moment that was captured out in Oregon. This is an incredible toss from Brett Hughes, I went with a little jester alley-oop off the backboard and then Kyle finished it off with a two hand dunk. This was our very first try…after our 45th try.