By Candace Martino
Junior men’s lacrosse transfer Alex Patton may be a late bloomer, but to call him a rookie under the lights would be untrue. Patton, of West Hempstead, New York spent most of his nights playing fullback or even linebacker for his high school football team, until he was left with no choice but to pick up a lacrosse stick.
“My football coach who was also the head coach of the lacrosse team at the time said, ‘If you don’t play lacrosse I’ll cut your time on the football field,”’ Patton said.
Despite all the success on the gridiron, including two county championships, it was no secret his 5-foot-9-inch frame would hinder him from playing college football.
“I considered playing [college football] but honestly, I knew I wasn’t big enough,” Patton said. “That’s part of the reason I love the game of lacrosse, it’s a game where no matter what size you are, what you’re willing to put into the game is what you’ll get out of it.”
Patton used his football mentality to his advantage. It was the summer before his senior year in high school when the opportunity to play college lacrosse seemed to be an achievable goal. To up his game, he attended a handful of summer showcase tournaments. Not long after, letters from interested coaches from up and down the east coast began to flood his mail box.
Patton opted to attend Nassau Community College in New York as a freshman, competing at the NJCAA level. There he played under head coach George Powers, claiming those two seasons to be some of the best years of his life.
UT’s coaching staff first contacted Patton immediately after his second season at Nassau Community College, where many other schools were heavily recruiting him.
“I was first contacted by coach [Chris] Panos here at UT, and the first question he asked me was, ‘Can you be a guy that makes an immediate impact in our program?”’
So far, the answer to that question is yes. Since coming to Tampa, Patton has put in an immense amount of effort to live up to his promise. The reigning Sunshine State Conference specialist of the week went 20-for-22 in faceoffs last Sunday, picking up eight ground balls, two assists, and one goal in UT’s 15-8 win over Walsh University.
“I know the type of person Alex [Patton] is and I know what he’s capable of,” freshman long stick middle Nick Nigro said. “His performance this past week should be no surprise, I would say he’s capable of so much more just because of his grind and the way he prepares.”
Patton arrived at UT this fall with one thing on his mind and one thing only: to claim a starting spot. The midfielder competed with nine other teammates for the same position and knew right away he had to differentiate himself by working harder and demonstrating resilience. Today, Patton ranks third nationally in his position and sits sixth on his team in overall points.
“Everyday we’re out on the field and we get after it. Every single one of us has talent and it makes practice so much fun. The coaches all do an amazing job of pushing us to our limits, putting us in the best position possible to make sure we’re successful, and making sure we know what we’re working for,” Patton said.
With a national championship on his mind, Patton is doing all that he can to play his part. From the experience of talented leaders on the field for UT followed by their tenacious hard nose defense, watching practice is what Patton says is equivalent to watching highlight tape.
“Alex [Patton] is not usually a very vocal guy, he leads by example very well. He always gives the younger players tips and tricks to better their performance. He definitely lets his play do all the talking,” Nigro said.
When asked if he could explain himself as a competitor, Patton said “relentless” and “efficient.” He prides himself on being the best midfielder he can be, often times claiming the desire obsessive.
“I’m someone who wants to see everyone succeed on and off the field. Being on the lacrosse team here at UT is more than just playing a sport, it’s a brotherhood. You play for the name across the front of your jersey and the person next to you,” Patton said.
With much focus on working hard, and buying into the team’s philosophy Patton and his team are hopeful to soon bring home the first ever men’s lacrosse national championship to Tampa.