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Yeatman And Hogan Share Unique Lacrosse Past

Posted May 25, 2012

Lacrosse is almost the pure definition of a niche sport, yet three members of the Miami Dolphins will most likely be watching this weekend’s NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championships being played at Gillette Stadium.

Tight end Will Yeatman, wide receiver Chris Hogan and tackle Will Barker all have an affinity for the sport of lacrosse having played it before. Barker left it behind after high school, but Yeatman and Hogan pursued their lacrosse dreams in college and even played against each other as freshmen when Yeatman was at Notre Dame and Hogan was at Penn State.

“I was fortunate enough to beat Chris and I believe the score was 9-7 with the Irish over Penn State and I had two goals and an assist,” said Yeatman, who also played two years of lacrosse at Maryland before committing solely to football. “We both started as true freshmen, with Chris a starting midfielder and I was starting attack man. I was fortunate enough to be on the winning end of that one.”

For Yeatman, he has the most direct interest in the final four remaining teams competing for the championship in the home stadium of the New England Patriots. There’s a chance that the two schools he played for – Notre Dame and Maryland – could meet in the championship game to be played on Memorial Day.

No. 4 Notre Dame squares off with top-seeded Loyola (Md.) in Saturday’s first semifinal at 2:30 p.m., with Yeatman’s Maryland Terrapins taking on No. 3 Duke at 5 p.m. The championship game is set for Monday at 1 p.m., so Hogan’s Nittany Lions are not represented. He actually played his one year of football at Monmouth at wide receiver and defensive back and caught just 12 passes, so after spending last season on the New York Giants’ practice squad, Hogan is eager to find a home with the Dolphins and got a kick out of seeing Yeatman again.

“We were talking about that one meeting on the lacrosse field before one of our workout sessions and he had my number, that’s for sure,” Hogan said. “That was like our first or second match of the season and we were indoors because the weather was terrible and Will was a big recruit coming out of high school so I knew a lot about him. I think I got one goal but they beat us in a close game and because we were on opposite ends of the field I don’t think I ever guarded him.”

“I haven’t picked up a lacrosse stick in a long time, though I coached a little last year during the lockout. Will’s a little fresher having played a year ago (in one semi-pro game), but I like watching the Final Four.”

There aren’t any plans for Yeatman, Hogan and Barker to engage in any pickup lacrosse games during their off time because of the risk of injury. Yeatman is happy that he has teammates to talk lacrosse with, especially at this time of year, and he will always hold a special place in his heart for the sport because of how big a role it has had in his family.

Yeatman’s father played lacrosse at the Naval Academy and his mother played a little bit at Maryland. Yeatman was born in Naples, Italy and spent his infant and early toddler years in Annapolis when his father coached the freshman team at the Naval Academy. The family moved to Brunswick, Maine when Yeatman was 3 and his father coached the local high school team, then his family moved to San Diego.

“The sport really hadn’t caught on out there at all,” Yeatman explained. “There were some high school club teams but outside of those high school club teams there really weren’t any teams at all, particularly at the youth and middle school levels. So when I was in third grade I played baseball and I really wanted to play lacrosse and I asked my father if there was anywhere I could play.

“He felt bad for me because he knew how badly I wanted to play it and sure enough in fourth grade he started what was called the San Diego Youth Lacrosse Clinic and it is going on to this day. When he started he had about 40 kids and three years later there were more than 300 kids and it has become the starting ground for hundreds of youth lacrosse players around San Diego County.”

Both Yeatman and Hogan believe playing lacrosse has helped them progress on the football field for a number of different reasons. The amount of running involved in lacrosse, especially by the midfielders like Hogan, instills the importance of being in good condition.

The sport is physical enough to help prepare those transitioning to football for contact, and the hand-eye coordination needed to catch a small yet hard lacrosse ball coming at speeds reaching 70 miles per hour in the webbing of the catching part of the stick is incomparable. Catching a football pales in comparison.

“I was definitely in shape when I switched to football and the cutting involved in lacrosse while running down the field also helped with my transition when it came to running routes,” said Hogan, who scored 71 points (57 goals, 14 assists) at Penn State. “Lacrosse is a tough sport and not many people can play it and having played it helps a lot when it comes to football, even more I think than baseball or basketball.”

Yeatman concurs and considers the year he played at Notre Dame to be the most fun he ever had playing lacrosse. He also enjoyed his two years at Maryland playing in the ACC against the nation’s best teams.

“I definitely have been around the loop a bit in lacrosse,” Yeatman said. “To this day I love the game a tremendous amount and I think it’s really a toss-up between football and lacrosse. I had the opportunity to play professional lacrosse but it was a bigger dream of mine to play in the NFL. I can’t risk getting injured so I had to go completely cold turkey on it.”

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