Pair of Golden Eagles selected in NLL Draft

Liam+Byrnes+%28right%29+and+Kyle+Whitlow+%28left%29+are+the+third+and+fourth+Golden+Eagles+drafted+into+the+NLL.
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Pair of Golden Eagles selected in NLL Draft

Liam Byrnes (right) and Kyle Whitlow (left) are the third and fourth Golden Eagles drafted into the NLL.

Liam Byrnes (right) and Kyle Whitlow (left) are the third and fourth Golden Eagles drafted into the NLL.

Liam Byrnes (right) and Kyle Whitlow (left) are the third and fourth Golden Eagles drafted into the NLL.

Liam Byrnes (right) and Kyle Whitlow (left) are the third and fourth Golden Eagles drafted into the NLL.

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While Marquette had two players entered in Monday’s National Lacrosse League draft, Kyle Whitlow and Liam Byrnes, it was clear that Whitlow was the safer bet to be picked. He was the player making mock drafts. He already showed he can compete with professionals two summers ago and had experience playing the NLL style of lacrosse, which is played indoors inside hockey rink dimensions.

Instead it was Byrnes, who has never played indoor lacrosse, who was the first Golden Eagle off the board. The Georgia Swarm selected him in the fifth round with the 44th overall pick. Fittingly, it was Whitlow who introduced Byrnes to the indoor game in the first place.

“Whitlow pretty much told me when I was living with him last year, ‘I think you could be good at this,'” Byrnes said. “So this fall I started watching indoor games with Tanner Thomson and Jordan McKenzie. They’re both Canadians. They were telling me all the rules and how to play defense. That’s all the training I had going into it.”

Whitlow didn’t have to wait much longer than Byrnes, as he was selected two picks later by the Colorado Mammoth.

“I was getting a little nervous, but I talked to Colorado previously before the draft,” Whitlow said. “They said that if they didn’t take me earlier they’d probably take me by the fourth or fifth round.”

Byrnes attended the league’s draft combine at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre this weekend and impressed in the physical testing. Although he doesn’t have box experience, his 6-foot-3 frame and success at the professional level in outdoor lacrosse make him an interesting project.

“I think he’s got the perfect body for it,” Marquette head coach Joe Amplo said. “He’s long, he’s strong and he’s tough and he’s got a pretty good stick with a short stick.”

Even with his strong performance in the physical testing, Byrnes still wasn’t certain he would be selected. He said he didn’t do anything to set himself apart in the two combine scrimmages, and he only interviewed with the team that ended up picking him, Georgia.

“I wasn’t getting great vibes from them so I wasn’t too sure they were even going to take me,” Byrnes said. “I was up there, top five for pretty much every single (test) I believe. I think that’s what impressed them more. … I think they see a lot of potential in me.”

Byrnes scored seven goals and eight assists in 61 games at Marquette. He’s the program’s leader in loose balls and caused turnovers and was the BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year prior to his senior season. He played 10 games with the Florida Launch in Major League Lacrosse, the professional outdoor league, this summer.

Whitlow missed a majority of his senior season after suffering a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in practice.

“He’s always been a fighter, proving people wrong and has gotten the most out of himself,” Amplo said. “He squeezed a lot of college goals out of that little body.”

Whitlow scored 70 goals and 24 assists in his 50-game career at Marquette. He was an All-BIG EAST First Team member his junior season.

As great as his college career was, it was a strong rookie season in Major Series Lacrosse, one of two top summer indoor leagues, that boosted his draft stock. He scored 15 goals and 21 assists with Brooklin, good for third on the team in points.

“I think he’ll have a long career in (the NLL), mostly because people are going to underestimate him,” Amplo said.

Byrnes and Whitlow are the first Marquette graduates selected in the NLL Draft since another pair of former Golden Eagles were taken in 2014. Tyler Melnyk was taken 19th overall by the Edmonton Rush, while Andrew Smistad was taken 54th overall by the Calgary Roughnecks.

The Swarm open their season Jan. 7 when they host Saskatchewan, while Colorado kicks things off at Buffalo Dec. 30.

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