Jack McClure knew early on that he wanted to be a football player.
It was in his family’s blood — his uncle, Chris Andros, played football at Georgia in the 1980s, and at a young age, McClure followed suit playing that same sport.
But it also served as a gateway to another passion: While playing football with one of his close friends he grew up with, McClure found his entry into lacrosse in fourth grade by way of that friend’s father, who helped start the lacrosse program at Lambert. It took a little bit of prodding, but McClure eventually gave in.
“He was always like, 'Hey Jack, when are you going to come over and play lacrosse?’” McClure said. “I had always played baseball when I was younger but he kept asking me. I was like, 'Why don't I try it out?' So I did, and I just fell in love with it.”
Years later, Lambert’s lacrosse program is one of the best in the southeast. McClure was a defensive captain for Lambert’s 2018 state championship team, one of the most dominant in any sport in the school’s already-decorated history, and teammates Drew Dockter and Patrick Deans were also key defensive contributors to the Longhorns’ title. There’s also Camden Sagues, an attack/midfielder in lacrosse who has played well on the defensive line, and Kinser Borner, Greg Steckel and Jack Wise, who could be new contributors for the lacrosse Longhorns this spring.
Those players have had a hand in the football team’s 3-1 start to the season, and despite the success they’ve all had playing lacrosse and the recruiting attention they’ve received for that sport, they haven’t seen it as a reason to focus on it alone.
Fittingly enough, defense has played a big role in the Longhorns’ last two games. In the Longhorn’s 7-0 win over Peachtree Ridge last week, Sagues and Deans particularly stood out – Sagues had a hand in five tackles, and Deans totaled six solo tackles and 1.5 sacks. When spring arrives, all that experience on the gridiron can certainly be beneficial.
“Transitioning the physicality from the football field to the lacrosse field is definitely helpful,” Deans said. “When you start getting physical and you start (them) beating up on offense, they shy away, because they're not used to it in the game of lacrosse.”
Deans, a senior, has gotten looks from college lacrosse programs and was in consideration for all-state honors last year, but still doesn’t see a reason to pick between football and lacrosse.
“I thought about maybe having to (choose) my senior year but I'm hoping the (decision) never comes,” Deans said. “I'd like to continue to play both sports. If I had to choose one, I guess I would, but it's not something I prefer to do.”
McClure, on the other hand, has his mind set on lacrosse for college. For him, the relationships and the conditioning are what keep him playing football, even with the threat of potential injuries that could throw a wrench in the recruiting process.
“All these guys are my best friends ever since I was a kid,” McClure said. “It's just a good thing to have in the offseason, and it helps out with lacrosse, too. I get stronger during football season and it helps me to get tougher.
“Anything can happen. You can't not do something because you're afraid about it. You've just got to do what you love and stick with it.”
Usually, there’s no real conflict between the two sports themselves, as they’re played during different seasons. The only time any overlap could get challenging is during offseason workouts.
To Lambert football coach Louis Daniel, lacrosse players are generally in better shape than the rest of the team when football workouts begin. Recruiting is a topic that he has strong opinions about, and in his experience, playing two sports can sometimes look better to recruiters.
“If you spend all your time playing one sport, you end up meeting your ceiling,” Daniel said. “These recruiters, they like to recruit these guys who are raw, who are all-around athletes. We've had football players over the years that focused on football, and a recruiter sits in our office and says, ‘He's tapped out.’ They want to see a guy who's well-rounded like that. They want to influence your athletic career.”
The Longhorns came into 2018 coming off a disappointing 3-7 season. They’ve already matched last year’s win total, and despite perceived lowered expectations around the county, McClure, Deans and the rest of the football team’s lacrosse crossover players hope to bring over the same kind of culture and expectations they’re used to in the spring.
“We've kind of taken that as motivation,” Deans said. “Don't let other people define what you're going to be. Let's work towards it. Let's improve and get the wins. So far, we've been doing that.”