The last college lacrosse game I ever played was on Memorial Day inside the walls of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. This was the 22nd straight final four appearance for our program, so needless to say we were no strangers to the spotlight and the electric energy of the NCAA National Championship game. Most of our fans were so used to us being there every season that they would book their hotel rooms a year in advance. I remember and cherish all of my memories of playing college lacrosse but this particular Monday in May will go down as one of the most vivid.
We loaded our team bus that Monday morning at the hotel and received a police escort to the field. The vibe on the bus was quiet and focused as we were led through the traffic jammed inner harbor. I remember looking out the window as we passed all of the massive ships like the USCGC Taney, USS Constellation, Lightship Chesapeake and USS Torsk docked along the seawall. Across the harbor on Federal Hill you could make out a large cannon monument and a gigantic American flag waving in the wind. We finally made it to the stadium and suited up to go play for our 9th National Championship in front of nearly 45,000 people.
Everything was going as usual until our opponents entered the scene. To this day one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was the 2004 Navy Lacrosse team flying out of the tunnel led by a giant American flag. At this particular moment our entire team realized that we were underdogs — and in a huge way. The noise created by the crowd was louder than any rock concert I’d ever been to. It was the championship, we were in Baltimore, they were America’s team and it was Memorial Day. Out of the 45,000 fans I feel like 44,900 fans were rooting for the Midshipmen. The scene was so intense that I almost wanted to root for them.
Memorial Day has always been an important day for my family and I. We have several family members that serve or have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. My Grandfather always viewed Memorial Day as one of the most important holidays of them all. He wasn’t preachy about it, he just made sure that we understood its importance to honor the lives of those that protect our freedom. My hometown of Carthage is just minutes away from Fort Drum so I was raised around the military lifestyle and have witnessed the impact of unfortunate tragedy on a family. Operation Desert Storm in the 90’s was particularly difficult because many of my classmates had parents that were serving in Saudi Arabia. With that being said, I’m not afraid to say that when I witnessed the Navy team take the field that day it gave me chills. It forced me to reflect on what makes our country what it is and how lucky we all are to have the opportunity to play lacrosse and live in the land of the free. It was another one of the moments that reminds you that we are human beings first and lacrosse players second.
It takes a special kind of person to have the courage and bravery to serve our country. I can’t express how much I admire that sense of leadership and fearlessness. So in many ways I love the fact that the division one men’s championship falls on the day of remembrance. Lacrosse is a game – war is a matter of life and death. Now I am in no way comparing these two things, but I will say that players that possess those personality traits are tough to beat and Navy happened to have 40 of them. We traded goals in the pouring rain for the next two hours and I kept hearing a name over the loud speaker that I will never forget — Looney.
Three brothers all on the same team at the same time. Stephen, Billy and Brendan Looney. At the time I didn’t know much about them other than the fact that they were all great lacrosse players. They were all very athletic, fast and strong. We ended up winning the game by one goal in the final seconds and capping the end of a terrific college lacrosse season. As we went through the hand shake line after the game I had the pleasure of meeting #40 Brendan Looney. We shook hands and looked each other in the eye as we both said good bye to college lacrosse. That was the last time I saw Brendan.
After I left college I moved to Denver, Colorado with plans to learn more about music, art, life and myself. Brendan on the other hand graduated from the Naval Academy and was sent to Korea and later Iraq. Again, such an admirable quality especially in a young person — he was obviously much more mature than I was at the time.
Late September 2010 I ran into a friend of mine and he informed me that Brendan Looney died when his SEALS helicopter crashed in the mountains of Afghanistan. This news hit me and the rest of the lacrosse world like a ton of bricks. Lacrosse is a family sport that’s tight knit and when a special person like Brendan passes it paralyzes the whole community. I will never forget the moment that him and I shared on that field on Memorial day back in 2004. Two young kids, competing and playing a game we love.
Although I never had the opportunity to get to know Brendan on a personal level, I consider him a friend and someone who continues to inspire me on a daily basis. I write this article to honor the hero, the brother, the son, the friend, the husband and the lacrosse player Brendan Looney. I also write this to honor all of those who serve and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your commitment and dedication to this country. You are all amazing people.
I leave you all with words of advice from Brendan Looney that we should all look at closely on this weekend of remembrance and implement into our everyday lives.
Courtesy of The Brendan Looney Foundation
Be Strong, Be Accountable, Never Complain
• Make good choices
• Create goals
• Give 110%
• Work hard in school, on the field and in the workplace
• Help & encourage others
• Give back to community and country
Working always to better yourself, means giving your best self to others. No Regrets.