With the 2017 MLL Championship Game slated for Frisco, TX, MLL Press Box decided to explore the lacrosse landscape in Texas leading up to the big game in our new series Lacrosse is Bigger in Texas. This week, we hear from Boston Cannons defenseman and Texas native, Brandon Mullins.
A quick perusal of the "hometown" column on the Syracuse University lacrosse roster is a good way to test your knowledge of small towns in Western New York and Long Island.
That was certainly the case when Brandon Mullins arrived at Syracuse in the fall of 2011. A native of Coppell, TX, Mullins caught the eye of coaches from Syracuse, despite the wealth of talent in New York, and went on to earn All-ACC honors there. Now with the Boston Cannons, Mullins is proof that the Dallas area and Texas are emerging as a source of elite lacrosse talent.
"I think the lacrosse landscape is changing so drastically now," Mullins said. "I think top DI programs used to be able to just take the top kids from Long Island, New York, Maryland, and all the hot spots and have the best team. But now, there’s so many other players from across the country I think you see on DI rosters today that the geography changes so much."
Mullins cited his own alma mater's current roster, which includes midfielder Sergio Salcido (Winter Park, FL), attack Nate Solomon (Alpharetta, GA) and another Dallas native in midfielder Sam Romano.
Lacrosse is not a varsity sport in the Texas public high schools, but the youth lacrosse scene and high school club scene is well established there.
"Right now, I would say it’s definitely exploding, even from when I started playing," Mullins said. "In fifth grade I think we had just one youth team. And then, when I was a senior in high school there were multiple [teams], and then now that I’m back here getting a feel for things, there are schools that I never even heard of having lacrosse that now have lacrosse. It’s definitely a hot spot as far as growth goes and I think that goes for girls and guys lacrosse."
Mullins also used his defenseman's build for a successful varsity football career at Coppell High School. Places like Texas, Florida and Georgia that famously breed football talent are seeing more and more of those athletes choose lacrosse. In many ways, the two sports compliment one another – with football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.
"When I was playing in high school, my core group was a bunch of kids who also played football. I think any time you can draw some of the top athletes who do play football to come play lacrosse, it definitely increases the level of play on the lacrosse side of things.
"I definitely agree that lacrosse is a great complimentary sport to football," Mullins said. "The speed and the physicality draws a bunch of kids and the more that the football athletes come over to lacrosse, the better lacrosse is going to get."
MLL expansion has become a popular topic of discussion in Texas now that the state will have hosted an MLL All-Star Game and MLL Championship Game since 2015. Mullins sees his home state as a viable lacrosse market based on the interest he has seen in the sport there and the growing talent pool.
"I think there’s definitely huge potential in Texas. Like I said before, it’s just exploding everywhere. Dallas, Austin and Houston, there’s a ton of up-and-coming teams and a ton of kids that are starting to play," Mullins said. "And I think Texas is also a place where a lot of coaches are coming down to start coaching down here, because there’s a huge need for it. I know Kyle Hartzell is coaching around here in Plano and then some of my old Syracuse friends are coming down to coach.
"So, I think just the growth itself will lend itself to having an interest in MLL. And I think the fact that the Championship Game is being played at The Star where the Dallas Cowboys practice will draw more people out to come and see everything, see lacrosse and see what everything is all about."
For tickets to the 2017 MLL Championship Game at Ford Center at The Star, please click below