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All in the family

March 18, 2016
When thinking of siblings playing in the MLL, the first family name that comes to mind is Gait. The Gait brothers, Gary and Paul, played together on the Long Island Lizards in 2001, the league’s inaugural season, and were instrumental in helping the Lizards earn the first MLL Championship in league history.

While several other siblings have played or continue to play in the league, only one other set of brothers achieved what the Gaits did back in 2001. Chris and Matt Bocklet, raised the 2014 Steinfeld Trophy this past weekend after the Denver Outlaws defeated the Rochester Rattlers in a come-from-behind 12-11 win.

WATCH: The Bocklet's Celebration

Since starting to play together in 2012, the two, one an eight-season defenseman who is as unassuming as he is effective on the field, the other a finesse shooter in his third season, who has been widely regarded as one of the best shooters in the game, have worked well together the past three seasons.

MLL TV analyst Paul Carcaterra, who had a hand in Chris’ development as a player, agrees.

“I met the Bocklets when Chris was in 7 th or 8 th grade. [Their father] Barry had asked me to work with him,” Carcaterra said. “Chris had that fire in his belly and the drive to do well. I tested him early on with early practices in inclement weather and he would constantly put the effort in. He’s is a unique shooter whose release, positioning and body movement are just naturally beautiful to watch. Matt is sometimes underappreciated but he has great lacrosse IQ, and his groundball game is one of the best I’ve seen. They are both very smart players who complement each other.”

The two brothers never had a chance to play together until Matt lobbied for Chris, who was originally drafted by the Charlotte Hounds in 2012, to join the Outlaws.

“Originally he was drafted by the Hounds,” Matt said. “This was Tony Seaman’s first year as our general manager and I had let him know before that I really would love the opportunity to be able to play with Chris. The Hounds drafted him first, but then it was a couple weeks later—maybe a month later—I got a call from Coach Seaman out of the blue, just letting me know they traded for Chris. I was hoping that I would get the chance eventually, but I didn’t think it would happen his rookie year. It was really special, and it got me to want to continue playing and training, and play well and be able to play together.”

Chris got the news while finishing up his college career.

“I was actually at UVA practice and I didn’t know,” Chris said. “Someone came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, congratulations on being an Outlaw.” And I was like, ‘What?” Yeah, so I got traded and I was so pumped, I was fired up. I was really excited; I knew that gave me a chance to play with Matt in a competitive setting. We played in summer league and things like that together, but never in a true league in a really competitive setting, so I was really excited that I was getting the chance to play with my brother. I don’t think there’s much more I want out there. It’s been great, I owe so much to him, in this sport, and he’s really helped me grow over the years as a player in the league. It’s definitely a tough transition from college to the pros, it’s a different type of game and with his support I feel like I was able to do it.”

Although born three years apart, Matt entered the league a year before Chris started his collegiate career at the University of Virginia, and playing in the MLL, let alone together, was not prominent on either of the brothers’ minds.

“Honestly, going to college I never thought the MLL was a reality for me,” Matt continued. “I had a feeling that Chris would have the opportunity to do it, but never did I imagine that I would have that chance, let alone play on the same team with him.”

“I knew I wanted to continue playing but I was never really sure I was going to play in the MLL,” said Chris. “I was excited to get drafted and I really have to thank Matt who made some moves to get me to Denver.”

Once in Denver, just like any older brother would do, Matt took Chris under his wing giving him some helpful advice to get over the rookie jitters and help with his transition to the professional game.

“I still remember his first game,” Matt said. “We were playing at Ohio and they dressed him, he went the whole first half, and I don’t think he took a single shot. At half time I told him, ‘start shooting or somebody else will,’ and he came out in the second half and had three goals, and never really looked back from there.”

“This was the first time I ever got to play with Matt and that was a real special thing in my rookie season,” Chris added. “I don’t think I could have had the success in the league that I would have had without him. Like he said with the Ohio game, he was the one who came up to me and told me to start shooting, and gave me the confidence I needed. It’s been like that these past three years, he’s been amazing and a mentor for me.”

Despite only playing seven games his rookie season, Chris posted impressive numbers with 17 goals and three assists. Coupled with Matt’s three goals, five assists and 58 groundballs, the pair reached the MLL Championship Game in 2012, ultimately falling to powerhouse Chesapeake Bayhawks. The following year both had breakout seasons, Matt ranking fifth in the league in groundballs with 72 and Chris leading the league in goals and points with 42 and 55 respectively.

A championship, however, was still not in the cards as the Outlaws lost their semifinal to the Hounds after enjoying an unprecedented undefeated regular season.

But that all changed in 2014.

The Outlaws finished the regular season 9-5, earning a spot in the Championship Game against the Rochester Rattlers after narrowly defeating the New York Lizards.

While Matt and Chris were battling it out on the field of Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., the rest of the Bocklets were huddled around televisions cheering them on.  

Sister Casey, who also plays Lacrosse at UVA, said: “I actually drove back to school, so I watched the game here [in Charlottesville, Va.]”

Their parents Terry and Barry watched the game in New York. “We watched it with their grandfather in the Catskills,” said Terry. “He has a 6 ft. TV screen and left a wedding to come and watch. It was great to see how much [the win] meant to him.”

Family members around the country witnessed the brothers Bocklet as they helped the Outlaws win their first Steinfeld Trophy in club history, and they agree that this is something Chris and Matt wanted for a long time.

“We were finishing up our X10 camps and you could tell how much they both wanted to win the championship,” Terry said. “Even Chris, who is usually quieter, was vocal about it.”

“I was so excited for them,” Casey added. “They’ve worked so hard and they’ve wanted this so bad, so to see them come back and win in such an exciting atmosphere—it was great.”

When asked about what it meant to win the Championship, both Matt and Chris had similar responses, reinforcing the fact that they are really close.

“It means everything,” Matt said. “Since this was the first time we were on the same team our entire lives, to be able to share that championship with him and all the hard work it took these past few years playing together really means a lot. I’d already lost in two Championship games, I had the undefeated season where we lost in the semifinals, and now to final bring home that championship is just, it’s great for Denver.”

“It was the best feeling I’ve had in a very long time,” Chris added. “It’s very hard to win a championship, and let alone do it beside my brother and family member was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt. That’s something that no one can take away from us, we’ll have that forever.”

And when we mentioned to them that they were the only siblings to win together since the Gait brothers, arguably two of the greatest players to ever set foot on a lacrosse field, both were surprised and impressed to be named in the same sentence.

“That’s a pretty impressive thing,” Chris said. “I mean, obviously the Gait brothers’ name stands for itself, as the best in the game of lacrosse, the best brothers. I’m just excited that I got to share that moment with Matt.”

“I mean, that’s unbelievable,” Matt concluded. “When you think Gait brothers, you think the best lacrosse players to ever play the game, so to now say that Chris and I are in the same company as Paul and Gary—that is truly amazing.”