When a baby is born, it is customary for them to get a rattle or maybe a blanket as an initial gift; however for infant males of the Iroquois Confederacy they receive their first lacrosse stick while still in the cradle. For OCC alum Jeremy Thompson ’09, this symbolism goes well beyond the playing field, “the game is part of our culture, the stick is made from a tree and by playing we show appreciation to the earth for providing these materials and opportunities for our people.” Thompson, along with six other former OCC Lazers, will be suiting up this week for one of their biggest opportunities to date as members of the Iroquois National Team as they take part in the fourth installment of the National Indoor Lacrosse Championships.
What separates this tournament, which takes place every four years, from the previous ones is the location. The Onondaga Nation will welcome the world on September 18, marking the first time an international sporting event will be held on indigenous lands. When the announcement was made that the tournament would be coming back to the birthplace of lacrosse, Thompson and his fellow teammates couldn’t wait. “I love playing with my four other brothers (Mike, Jerome, Miles and Lyle) as well as my other brothers from different nations too.” Jeremy’s brother Jerome played alongside him at OCC, which has added another flavor to the experience.
Nearly 30 percent of the Iroquois roster is made up of former Lazers, a number that would have been more if not for an ACL injury to Cody Jamieson, who is considered by many to be one of the best players in the world. “For the OCC guys, it is a big reunion for us and we take pride in what we’ve helped build there,” Thompson said, “Coach Wilbur and the rest of his staff are doing a tremendous job and a lot of guys want to go there now because of the popularity and winning.”
As nice as the winning is, for Coach Wilbur, it is much more than that. “The Nation trusts us with their young men to help further their education and give them opportunities in life, which is something we take very seriously.” Being able to see the return on his investment this week on the national stage makes Wilbur all the more proud. “Anytime you see former players grow, continue to work hard and accomplish their dreams, there is simply no better feeling than that.”
Another player from OCC’s most recent national championship in May is 21 year old Adam Bomberry who is living the dream as one of the younger players on the Iroquois squad. “I’ve had a lacrosse stick in my hand since I was two years old; it is a great honor to be part of this team and I am just looking to soak up as much knowledge as I can and learn from them.” Bomberry will no doubt have some of the best teachers from the world of lacrosse since the seven former players alone from OCC amassed 13 total National Championships, 12 time All Americans and 4 National Junior College Players of the Year.
However, despite all of their accolades, for Thompson the biggest lesson he is looking to pass down is keeping things in perspective, “The build up to this week has been overwhelming, but we all realize we are not playing for the number or name on our jersey, but for the creator, our focus will be to have a good mind and to play as hard as we can.”