ALBANY — Like a lot of young athletes, it wasn’t rare for Connor Fields to take to the backyard years ago to pretend he was one of his sport’s professional stars.
And, like a lot of young athletes, Fields — now the top star for the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team — just figured he would eventually play his sport as a professional.
“Obviously,” Fields said, “that’s been a goal of mine since I was a little kid.”
Wednesday night, Fields will find out where that dream is set to become a reality. The Major League Lacrosse draft starts that night at 6:30 p.m., and Fields is expected to be a top-five pick. The 2017 Tewaaraton Award finalist could go as high as No. 1, a pick which belongs to the Boston Cannons.
“I’m just waiting to see what happens. I’m excited,” said Fields, one of several UAlbany seniors likely to be selected in the MLL’s seven-round collegiate draft. “Hopefully I get drafted and, if I do, to see where I go.”
That last part is where things get interesting.
Yes, Fields wants to find out which team he could play for at the next level . . . but he is also interested in learning where he could end up geographically after his time at UAlbany concludes.
After all, he is going to have to get a job.
“I’ve been trying to make my resume look as good as possible,” said Fields, a business major at UAlbany.
It is no secret that professional lacrosse players don’t make similar money to players in the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL. Playing professional lacrosse is essentially a part-time gig, with MLL salaries reportedly ranging in the $10,000 to $25,000 landscape.
As a kid in East Amherst, Fields figured professional lacrosse players made big bucks — or, at the very least, enough to support a living. He learned that wasn’t the case several years back.
“I probably realized that when I was late in high school, early in college,” said Fields, smiling. “Obviously, you can’t just go off and play lacrosse for a living.”
Besides Fields, UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy is a possible first-round pick. Beyond those two players, the most likely Great Danes to be selected are seniors Justin Reh and Troy Reh, and redshirt senior JD Colarusso. UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said each of his players knows the potential gig is not a full-time — or, particularly lucrative — one. Still, Marr said, he doesn’t discourage his players from trying to play for as long as they are able.
“Obviously, it’s not a full-time job. You still have to get another job. You need to be flexible,” Marr said. “But if you’re young and you just graduated college, work is going to be there — so find a way to enjoy playing and play as long as you can.”
Fields, who was on track to flirt with breaking former teammate Lyle Thompson’s NCAA career scoring record before a knee injury forced him to miss some action, said his preference is to find a job either in sales or finance. His professional resume, he said, doesn’t include much reference to his status as one of the top lacrosse players in the country.
“The only thing that’s on there like that is just that I am a student-athlete,” Fields said. “That’s it. Other than that, I try to stay away from that.”
Outside of becoming a coach, there have been lacrosse players who have been able to turn their affiliation with the sport into a full-time career through supplementing a playing career with endorsements, merchandise, and running camps and clinics — such as Lyle Thompson. Along with brothers Jeremy, Jerome and Miles, Lyle Thompson has a “Thompson Brothers Lacrosse” brand through which he has started to build his own lacrosse empire.
Trying to do something like that has crossed Fields’ mind, but he knows building up a brand along those lines is not easy.
“I want to do as much with lacrosse as I can,” Fields said, “but, obviously, that’s hard to do.”
Fields said it would interest him to play in the National Lacrosse League — the sport’s professional indoor league — as well as the MLL. Admittedly, though, Fields hasn’t thought that far ahead in a meaningful way. His top focus, he said, remains on his college season with the Great Danes, who he expects to return to the lineup for this Friday against Binghamton.
Even once UAlbany’s season is complete sometime in May, Fields said he wants his UAlbany-based focus to extend for a bit.
“Hopefully in June,” Fields said, “we’re celebrating a national championship here.”