Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2018 class will be honored during a ceremony tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. Two of the graduates we will honor tonight are Jeremy and Jerome Thompson.
For many lacrosse enthusiasts the name Thompson resonates much like the name Manning does in the National Football League. Despite the fame and name recognition that comes with being part of the first family of lacrosse, both Jeremy and Jerome take each day in stride. They grew up in longhouses and like most Native American children were provided a lacrosse stick while still in their crib due to the significance of the sport in their culture. This instrument of play would be something both would cherish and would provide them endless opportunities and responsibilities.
Up until the 5th grade the brothers went to school on the Onondaga Reservation before joining the Lafayette School District. Both remember the early days of transition very well. “For us, it was like living in two different worlds even though we were close in proximity, our culture, language and learning style could not be further apart,” Jeremy said. As a result of this divide, both brothers had to overcome a feeling of isolation, despite Lafayette’s best efforts. “The School was very welcoming, but since we did not speak English I could only talk with Jeremy and one other teacher who we ate lunch with everyday, so the ability not to communicate was tough,” Jerome added.
After some time, the brothers were able to make the necessary advancements to overcome the language barrier and started to forge friendships. By the time they started junior high and could play lacrosse for the team, their transition into the school became much smoother as the bond with their classmates became stronger. Once area colleges caught wind of the what was happening at Lafayette it did not take long for the letters and applications to start rolling in. “We always had our eye on Syracuse University as we grew up going to their lacrosse games, but the opportunity to attend college, let alone a Division-I school didn’t really become a reality until all of that mail started to come in,” Jeremy said.
They would go on to win two state championships at Lafayette, but due to their academic standing needed to hone their skills in the classroom a bit more before making the jump to Division-I. Enter, Coach Chuck Wilbur of the OCC Men’s Lacrosse Program. “Coach Wilbur was all about building relationships and stayed very close to us through our years in high school, so he was somebody we could trust and put us on a path where we could further our goals,” Jerome said. The slogan of the OCC Men’s Lacrosse program is “Family” and that is what they became to the Thompson Brother’s. “Coach Wilbur taught us the value of the classroom and if we work on that everything else would take care of itself. That along with being close to the Reservation and the small classes turned out to be exactly what we needed.”
The Thompson’s would go on to lead OCC to two straight National Junior College National Championships and both earned All-American honors in the process. Following their time at OCC, Jeremy would go on to star at Syracuse University while garnering two more All-American honors while playing for the Orange. Soon after the National Lacrosse League would come calling for both where they would each bring their customary wide-open style of play to the professional level. Both would go on to star for different teams and capture a total of five championships between them. In addition, both continued to play critical roles for the Iroquois National Lacrosse Team during the World Lacrosse Championships, with the team recently earning a Bronze Medal in Israel this past summer.
In light of their success, the Thompson Brothers would go on to become the faces of Nike Lacrosse and serve as ambassadors of the companies N7 Fund Program, where resources and lacrosse supplies are allocated to impoverished areas, mainly in populations where there is a large Native American population. Being part of this program, hosting free lacrosse clinics and giving talks to Native American youth is something that is very important and allows them to give back as an appreciation to everyone who took the time to help them on their journey. “We are grateful to the creator, God, everyone at Lafayette, OCC and all of the support we received in getting to where we are today. To receive this honor is a tribute to all of the work they put into our success and we are very excited to return the favor as often as we can.”