Friday night marks the first time the next set of lacrosse playing brothers will face off against each other in the National Lacrosse League, as Randy Staats’ Georgia Swarm host Austin Staats’ San Diego Seals.
Austin has long been touted as someone to watch in lacrosse for his dynamic ability to score and create chances. Teams were salivating over him long before left Onondaga Community College to declare himself eligible to play pro early.
The expansion Seals took him first overall, and of course, the person most proud of him? Four-year NLL veteran Randy, who was able to watch his brother’s subsequent first game in which he scored five goals and four assists.
“I was waiting for it the whole day,” Randy says. “I was pretty excited for him. It’s a big accomplishment being drafted first overall. I was nervous for him and I was fired up for him.”
Randy wasn’t shocked by his younger brother’s immediate impact on the pro game.
“I was more like ‘that’s him,’” Randy chuckles. “He does it on a frequent basis in junior but this is not junior. These are grown men. He’s played at the men’s level before in senior A but to see him score five goals and get four assists that kind of speaks for itself. I was kind of like holy man, holy man and he kept going and going.”
The two brothers will face off for the first time tonight at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Center and they expect a lot of family to be in attendance.
“I can’t wait. I’ve had it marked down on my calendar,” Randy says. He’s sure his numerous family in attendance will do something to celebrate the pair, although he’s not sure where all their loyalties lie.
“My sister says said she’s going to wear a Seals’ shirt so I said ‘great, I get to beat both of you in one night!’”
San Diego currently holds top spot in the west, partially due to Austin’s incredible season. He’s third on the team with 59 points though he leads in goals with 31.
“Austin has been an important part of our team offence so far,” says Seals’ head coach Patrick Merrill. “He’s a competitive, talented young player that thrives during critical moments. He’s a good teammate, a winner, and has embraced the culture we are building.”
Brothers facing off against each other isn’t a new idea in such a niche sport. It’s actually a phenomenon that has a long history in lacrosse. Think of some of the more recognizable names: Gait, Evans, Self, Dawson, Thompson.
In fact, Josh and Zach Currier also face each other this weekend when Calgary visits Philadelphia on Saturday.
Family members can be teammates, too: both Paul and Dan Dawson currently play for the Seals.
Patrick Merrill doesn’t play against his brother Brodie anymore; he actually coaches him in San Diego. Brodie’s the captain of the Seals; he signed there in the offseason to be with his brother.
“Even though he’s younger, I’ve always admired Brodie,” Merrill says. “He’s a great example for the way all professional athletes should carry themselves. I’m sure that Austin and Randy have a similar relationship. Keep each other accountable, compete hard against each other, but always have each other’s backs away from the floor.”
Merrill believes that his brother had the biggest impact on his career and won’t be surprised if Austin and Randy say the same thing about each other one day.
“I certainly would not have played as long as I did or even have been a pro player/coach if it wasn’t for Brodie. We’ve always challenged each other to be the best players and people we could be, but have also been great friends and supporters of each other along the way.
“Don’t compare yourself to each other; learn from each other.”
Randy says that he and Austin chat almost every day, though his younger brother doesn’t often need his advice.
“There’s not too much you can say,” Randy says earnestly. “Be you, do your thing man, that’s what he does.If he keeps it consistent, and plays his game and finds the back of his net and his teammates, I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
As for Austin himself? He can’t wait to see his brother tonight.
“I can’t wait to share this memory with my brother,” Austin says. “I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life. He’s been my role model since I was a kid. Hopefully someday he and I can play on the same team together.”
— with files from Matt Hodowany