Men’s lacrosse assistant spends summer playing in Premier Lacrosse League

Assistant+coach+Jake+Richard+graduated+from+Marquette+in+2016.+He+was+a+former+USILA+All-American.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29
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Men’s lacrosse assistant spends summer playing in Premier Lacrosse League

Assistant coach Jake Richard graduated from Marquette in 2016. He was a former USILA All-American. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Assistant coach Jake Richard graduated from Marquette in 2016. He was a former USILA All-American. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Assistant coach Jake Richard graduated from Marquette in 2016. He was a former USILA All-American. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Assistant coach Jake Richard graduated from Marquette in 2016. He was a former USILA All-American. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

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As a kid, Jake Richard said he never thought he’d become a professional lacrosse player.

“It’s something that I never really knew I had the opportunity to do growing up,” Richard said.

But now, the Marquette men’s lacrosse assistant coach is in his fourth season of professional lacrosse, having played this season in the new Premier Lacrosse League after spending three years in Major League Lacrosse.

“I had an absolute blast playing in the PLL,” Richard said. “Playing at the highest level is always humbling. I loved it, I love to compete, and I love to still be involved with the pro game.”

This summer, Richard, a 2016 Marquette graduate and former NCAA All-American, suited up for Atlas Lacrosse Club, one of the PLL’s six founding teams.

Richard took shifts as a short-stick defensive midfielder for the Atlas, nicknamed the Bulls, and played on the same squad as two of the world’s best players, all-time great Paul Rabil and the nation’s best faceoff athlete Trevor Baptiste.

While he said he enjoyed getting to play against the best in the world for a living, one of Richard’s favorite parts of the league is its accessibility to the public.

“You used to have to jump through hoops to follow pro lacrosse,” Richard said. “The Premier Lacrosse League did a great job of bringing that to the people.”

Even though he has been a professional athlete for a few years, Richard said this year was the first one where he truly felt like one.

“I played Major League Lacrosse for three years, and I maybe had one conversation about it,” Richard said. “But I played in the Premier Lacrosse League for one year, and everyone in my life was engaged and investing time in catching the games. It was when I first really felt like a professional lacrosse player.”

Richard spent his PLL debut with his younger brother Noah, who played long-stick midfield for the Bulls. Richard said this was the first time the siblings really got to play together, as they never shared the field even though they were on the same college and high school teams for a year.

“He’s obviously turned into a tremendous player,” Richard said. “To be able to play with him … I continued to remind myself how special and what a privilege it was. I didn’t want to take a second for granted.”

In fact, Richard said the best part of his first season was one of his brother’s highlights.

“My brother’s first goal was my favorite memory from the summer,” Richard said. “He received the pass from Paul Rabil who is the founder of the league and buried it without hesitation, and that’s a testament to the kind of competitor he is — not afraid to perform under the lights.”

As a short-stick defensive midfielder, Richard said he normally jogs off the field following goals, but this score was different.

“When I saw it, I was so proud of him,” Richard said. “I was down on the other end of the field, and typically, a goal goes in, I say, ‘Oh, whatever,’ and go over to the sideline. But no, I sprinted down to him, gave him a big hug.”

Richard also scored a goal of his own. While on a shift, he took an outlet pass, went coast to coast and beat PLL Goalie of the Year Blaze Riorden. Richard laughed thinking back on the goal and said his goal was “lucky.”

“(Albany) is a lacrosse town, and we were playing the Chaos who have a lot of Albany alumni on that team, so it was a really high energy place,” Richard said. “I was fortunate enough to take advantage of that opportunity.”

While some college coaches might find the time commitment of playing to be overwhelming with their coaching duties, Richard said he highly values the opportunity to compete against the world’s best.

“Playing is certainly something in my priorities,” Richard said. “It makes me a better coach, gets me around a lot of great guys and the lacrosse community is so tight … so being better networked helps me.”

In addition to spending the summer in the PLL, Richard also got to don the red, white and blue for the Team USA Fall Classic last weekend, competing for the United States against Team Canada and the reigning national champions, the University of Virginia Cavaliers. 

“When the opportunity comes to play for (Team USA), I don’t hesitate,” Richard said. “It’s nothing I quite pictured growing up. I never knew if it was a reality or not, so being able to experience it as a reality is really humbling. I do my best every time I have that chance.”

In the showcase, Richard had a stick check that made highlight reels in a play called a yard sale, where his opponent’s stick was jarred from his hands because of the force Richard applied.

Looking to next season, Richard plans on suiting up for the PLL again with a simple goal in mind.

“The top priority of mine next summer is to win a championship,” Richard said. “Whatever that entails for me, whatever role my team needs me to fulfill, I hope I can execute that and continue to take a leadership role in the pro game.”

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