By Becca Church | 10/25/13 11:30 AM
Since 1957, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame has honored men and women, past and present, who personify the contribution of the sport of lacrosse to our way of life. On Saturday, October 26 a whole new class will be inducted at the Grand Lodge of Maryland in Hunt Valley, Md. Among them, MLL veteran Michael Watson an attackman who has shown through his illustrious career that he is far more than well deserving of this honor.
He has been chosen to be inducted as a truly great player, from his career at UVA, with the MLL’s Boston Cannons and LA Riptide, and with the Men’s US National Team. Watson will be the 12th overall MLL player to be inducted into the hall of fame. He will also be the 11th overall Cavalier to be inducted into the hall of fame and the first since Dom Starsia, head coach at UVA, in 2008.
After playing for St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Md., where he was a high school All-American, Watson headed to the University of Virginia where he helped lead the Cavaliers to two NCAA National Championships. While at UVA he was also a four time All-American attackman, was named by the USILA as attackman of the year for Division I, was named All-ACC four times, and was named one of the 50 greatest lacrosse players in ACC history. He ranks second for most career goals at UVA, behind teammate Doug Knight, with whom he popularized the infamous “dive shot.”
Shortly after he graduated from UVA, Watson helped Team USA capture the ’98 World Championship and in 2000 participated in the first Summer Showcase in Columbus before joining the Boston Cannons from 2001-2004. In his tenure there, he was selected to the All-Star Team and, in 2004, named by Inside Lacrosse Magazine as “the MLL’s most electrifying player.” In 2005 he took a year off from the league and returned in 2006 to play for the LA Riptide for which he was chosen as the first overall draft pick.
Being one of the pioneers of the league and having accumulated so many accolades over the years, Watson exudes an admirable, humble demeanor. Throughout his career, he had never been big on accolades, but he explained how honored he is to be chosen for the induction into the US Hall of Fame when he said, “It definitely is the highest honor in our sport, and even now that I’m not playing anymore, it gives me a chance to realize how special it is.”
For Watson, his experience with the MLL ultimately was about “competing at the highest level of the sport. Competing against some of the best players in the world and testing yourself every day.” Along with this sense of competition came a fraternal bond: the friendships, networks, and experiences that were built over a seven year span of time that proved to be precious to this lacrosse great. These experiences and contacts that he built in his time with the MLL, he feels, have played a huge role in influencing his path.
As most lacrosse fanatics may know, Michael Watson is the model and inspiration for the MLL logo. The logo is based off of a picture that was taken from the ’98 World Games. In his eyes, the logo embodies the classic pose of a lacrosse player in action. Watson also feels that for the future of the MLL, “The sky is the limit. There are some really solid organizations and the level of play is fantastic, so if you’re tracking the growth of the sport overall and the elements that have come together with the MLL, the best is yet to come.”
Over the years, starting from his youth in Baltimore, Michael had numerous influences. From the youth level, to high school, to college, to the National Team, to the MLL, he believes his coaches to be legends in their own right. Specifically, he played under Starsia at UVA and Bill Tierney who coached alongside Starsia for Team USA. He claims the pair to be “arguably two of the best coaches of all time.”
Aside from outstanding mentors in coaches, Watson explains one of his biggest influences was in one of his best friends Tim Whiteley. The two played together through middle school, high school, and college. “Tim is probably one of the smartest lacrosse minds of anyone that I know. And getting to play with him and learn from him over that period of time probably did more for me than anything,” he confided.
Now that he is out of the MLL, Michael has continued to keep the game of lacrosse a large part of his life by creating LaxWest. LaxWest is an organization that is helping the growth of lacrosse across the western part of the United States, and it creates opportunities, which enhance the lacrosse experience for players, coaches and their families.
There were so many kids playing that Watson found a need for another group to help to foster that growth and teach the game. “I feel like I have a unique and special knowledge of the game through my experiences, and I wanted to help some younger kids by sharing that experience in a positive way so it would help them.” Having so many incredible people influence him at a young age, he wants to give back and be that person for someone else.
There is no question that Michael Watson deserves this honorable recognition. He has accomplished so much throughout his career and only continues to spread his knowledge and love for the game. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 26 at 7 p.m. at the Grant Lodge Inn in Hunt Valley, Md. For more information about the event, go to: www.uslacrosse.org/HOF.