One of the fascinating Twin Cities community members featured in City Pages' People 2015 issue. Check out our entire People 2015 issue.
Miles Thompson, the first-round pick of the National Lacrosse League's Minnesota Swarm in last summer's draft, remembers the moment he made the decision.
It was well before he began to marvel 9,000 frenzied fans inside Xcel Center with his revolutionary style of diving for loose balls and slinging between-the-legs howitzers into opponents' nets.
The University of Albany's men's lacrosse team had ended its forgettable 2012 season, falling in the championship of the America East Conference Tournament. The then-sophomore had registered a team-high 35 goals, yet knew he'd lumbered through the campaign, coasting on raw talent while playing 40 pounds overweight.
"At the end of every game that season," says Thompson, "the ball was always in my hands or [Great Dane teammate and brother] Lyle's. I knew I wasn't the best player I could be and I knew I wasn't being the leader our team needed."
Thompson emerged from the following offseason 40 pounds lighter, a more agile beast. Of greater significance, he was again in love with the sport he'd learned growing up in New York's Onondaga Nation.
"I wouldn't say I was taking lacrosse for granted," he says. "but I knew I wasn't dedicated to it the way I felt about it inside."
Over his final two years in Albany, Thompson, who Albany coach Scott Marr likens to "a once in a generation type player," would help produce a pair of conference titles and back-to-back postseason berths, and shred NCAA scoring records. After being named co-winner of college's lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, Thompson was bound for the Xcel Center as the league's third overall pick.
Before being drafted, Thompson, who plays summer lax for Major League Lacrosse's Rochester Rattlers, admits he didn't know much about his new winter-season digs except "it's where the Mall of America is."
As in his college days, he relishes the challenge to take the sport to higher ground in the Midwest.
"I want to be a big part of growing the game here," says Thompson, who's been impressed by the amount of attention he and the upstart Swarm have gotten. "I want to be the face of lacrosse in Minnesota. That means playing the game with creativity and courage."
That passion may have already produced the moment when Thompson became the growing sport's iconic young player.
In the late stages of the Swarm's second game of the season against the Edmonton Rush, Thompson cut to the front of the opposition net, took a pass, and, as he was being cross-checked and dragged down, the 24-year-old forward fired a no-look shot into the top right corner.
The play landed him on Sportscenter's "Top Plays" that night and — most likely — on the Twin Cities' sports radar screen for multiple exploits to come.