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Alumni: Brown, John finally on the field for Hobart

Hobbled as they once were, finally a Salamanca connection is making an impact on Hobart College’s men’s lacrosse team.

After each sitting out most or all of last season, Tanner John, a 2013 Salamanca graduate, and Frank Brown, a 2012 Silver Creek graduate from Salamanca, have broken into Hobart’s playing rotation in the second half of the Statemen’s season.

Hobart lacrosse (7-6), the lone Div. I sport at the school, plays Bryant University in the Northeast Conference semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Philadelphia.

“They’re both two of our more talented guys,” coach Greg Raymond said. “Last year, our record was a result of guys like Tanner going down, like Frank going down and Alex Love went down. Anybody that played significantly for us was either in and out of the lineup or out for good. Having those guys back, having them healthy and in the lineup has allowed us to have a camaraderie out there.”

John, a 6-foot-4 former quarterback, is a physically imposing midfielder, while Brown, at 6-foot-3, plays a shifty attack game.

“He’s a big, strong athletic kid, who’s a bear to stop,” Raymond said of John. “We knew that we had a raw athlete, a football guy really in a lacrosse guy’s body. So we knew we had some work to do to get him to fit into a system. We knew we had a piece of clay and we’re molding it.

“Frank’s as skilled as they come. He catches everything, he’s got an excellent stick, he passes everything on the ear. The thing that stands out about him is his innate IQ for this sport. He knows how to move a ball, what to do without the ball. It’s something that’s very difficult to teach.”

John and Brown played together at Salamanca before Brown’s move to Silver Creek and roomed together last year.

John, the 2013 Louis Foy award winner for Salamanca male athlete of the year, initially planned to play both football and lacrosse, but decided to focus solely on the latter.

He arrived at Hobart last season with a nagging knee injury from his senior football campaign. Raymond, then in his first year, met with John and decided to hold him out for the year, keeping his year of eligibility and letting him recuperate.

“Tanner’s been nicked up since he’s been here,” Raymond said. “We finally found a decent balance where I don’t think he’s 100 percent, all the way healthy yet, but he’s gotten into a pretty good groove where he can play with what he has going on.”

John has appeared in eight games, scoring three goals in the last five.

Brown, a junior from Salamanca, attended Salamanca schools until his 11th grade, when he moved to Silver Creek.

He played one game as a sophomore last season before sitting out the rest. Brown’s back and hip injuries meant he couldn’t support the huge playing time he received as a freshman.

“Before I got here, they were putting Frank on the field 80 percent of every single game,” Raymond estimated, “and Frank is as tough as they come, so he was fighting through it, but not really playing the way that Frank is capable of playing. So we decided for him to take a leave and see if we could get this year back.”

But while playing summer indoor lacrosse, Brown suffered another setback in a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Brown has made nine appearances in Hobart’s last 10 games and started six this season. He posted a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in a regular-season closing loss to Mt. St. Mary’s.

“Frank and Tanner’s road had been as rocky to this point as it can possibly get,” Raymond said. “But those two are very persistent, there’s a lot of resilience there and they both love lacrosse. They both found a way to get back on the field.”

At first, the opportunity to play both football and lacrosse appealed to John, but reuniting with a former teammate helped seal the deal with Hobart.

“We grew up together: I probably met him for the first time when I was six years old at a midget/pee wee football game and my brother and him and his brother and me were pretty much best friends,” he said. “That was a really big confidence booster coming here and knowing I had someone I could relate to.”

John, a former four-sport Salamanca athlete, four-year all-Western New York lacrosse performer and Big 30 football all-star, has embraced lacrosse as his sport and finally feels healthy enough for the decision to pay off.

“Playing two sports and my senior year, four sports, I never really had the time to focus on one sport,” he said. “This fall I had another knee injury, so I didn’t play all this fall, but this season I’m feeling healthy. Things are getting worn down here at the end, which is to be expected, but I’m feeling good.”

It’s a long way from playing for the Warriors at Veterans’ Park.

“My junior and senior year we were lucky to have 13 guys,” John said of high school. “Coming here we have a team of 50 guys and it’s motivating. My freshman year I’d make some carefree mistakes like I was in high school but the speed is like ‘Holy cow, how did that guy get there?’

“Not being able to play the last two falls, seeing everyone out there, I’m think I’ve got to work double as hard in the offseason.”

Brown’s torn ACL recovery held him out until recently, but he’s starting to see why he and John wanted to play together in the first place.

“It’s working out now,” Brown said. “I’ve been back for about eight games (now nine) and Tanner’s a top middie on our team and I’m getting the nod for starting attack. It took a while, but it’s coming together well.”

Brown took a semester away from the team before the ACL injury and plans to apply for a redshirt year. He said a college coach told him to see his college career as a journey of peaks and valleys.

“I was in the valley for a long time and I figured, ‘Just keep working,’” Brown said. “You’ll get back to where you were and better.”

But while he’s glad to be back, Brown said he needs to get back into top conditioning.

“I’m not quite 100 percent. It’s coming little by little, hopefully in time for our conference tournament. I’m just really out of shape still. My endurance is down, my footwork right now is an atrocity. I’ve been working on it, but we’re in season now so I have to practice day in and day out. Hopefully when the season’s over I’ll be able to reacquire my legs, so to speak.”

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