Of all the talented lacrosse players in the nation, very few hail from the West Coast. But the men’s lacrosse team picked up a prize in Washington-native midfielder Gregory Mahony ’12. Mahony is a two-time All-Ivy and All-New England selection. In January, he was picked in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft by the Boston Cannons. Most recently, last week he was named a candidate for the national Lowe’s and Tewaaraton awards — two distinctions handed to the top lacrosse player in the country. The history of science and medicine major and pre-med has been a core contributor for the Bulldogs, who enter this season ranked 13th nationally in the Inside Lacrosse poll. The News sat down with Mahony to ask him about his experience playing lacrosse at Yale and his future prospects.
Q. When did you start playing lacrosse?
A. I actually didn’t start until the eighth grade, which surprises a lot of people since a lot of college recruits start around third grade and have sticks in their hands their whole life. I was really into soccer, and I was a really big baseball player, and I was playing sports so much and I got burned out. My brother saw some kids playing [lacrosse] so I just followed them to practice. Turns out, we were pretty good at it. We liked it, stuck with it and dropped our other sports to play lacrosse.
Q. Did you imagine yourself playing in college?
A. I have a pretty interesting recruiting story, not anything mainstream by any standard. I played football in high school and also played lacrosse, and I knew I wanted to play in college, and didn’t want to sit around. I had been an athlete my whole life and sports kept me going and kept me busy. I was looking at random Division III schools, and I had talked to a couple of Division I coaches for sports, and no one really showed much interest in me playing either sport in college. I was planning on walking on… It wasn’t until my senior year when I was about to graduate that we played a team from New York and the assistant coach was good friends with the assistant coach of our [Yale] team. They called me when I was just about to graduate and had already put down my deposit together for a different school to not play a sport. And they called me and said, “Listen, if you want to come to Yale, take a year off and apply again.” And so I did that, and that’s why I’m here.
Q. What did you do in your year off?
A. I played [lacrosse] in Canada before I came to Yale. They do have field lacrosse, but everyone plays box lacrosse. It’s the same equipment but in a hockey rink where they shave off all the ice so it’s a lot more physical and a lot less space. So you need a completely different skill set. … I went out there, got bruised and battered. And then I came to Yale. It wasn’t the most culturally enriching thing, but I definitely got a lot better at lacrosse.
Q. How has the team changed since your first season?
A. Our group of seniors, we’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. When we were freshmen, we [the team] were lacking out on the field and in leadership areas, and then the very next year we went around and took the Ivy League title. Within one year we had seen what it meant to win and lose games, and then took the positive attitude that is takes to win. We’ve had four years of seeing the team’s attitude get progressively better and better, and so as seniors we try to convey that attitude and those emotions to the other guys and hope that they can continue that trend. No one likes to lose.
Q. How do you balance being pre-med and playing lacrosse?
A. I knew that I wanted to do something in health care … and playing a sport just keeps my day so structured, I don’t really have the time to sit down and do nothing. When you have something always happening, you’re always on a constant schedule. It’s really helped me get through classes because I get in a working mode and can’t really get out of it. Grades go up a little bit, which is surprising to a lot of people, and I just function a lot better when I’m busy.
Q. What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to play lacrosse professionally?
A. I haven’t taken my MCAT yet, and I’ll be doing a year of research, hopefully in a clinical center or a hospital. And the way drafting works, the rosters on the teams are small, so I still have to try out and the chances are slim. But hey, if they [the Boston Cannons] really want me, I’d do it. I’d be one of the two people ever to be drafted from my home state, and so we’d be the first two professional players from Washington if we both make it. I think that’d be really cool.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A. I just hope that I’m in a position where people need me, and I’m not just travestying through life. I’ll be a position where I can make my own decisions and hopefully impact people.
Q. What has been one of your best games in your Yale career?
A. It was last year when we played Princeton. Yale historically has had a tough time with Princeton, and its senior class is one of the top-ranked recruiting classes in the country. Even though we had done very well, it’s always been that the Princeton players get all the preseason hype. It’s nice to beat a team that has gotten all that and accolades, and to just tell them that we’ve been flying under the radar, but we’re still better than you. I remember taking a lap around the field and one of the kids saying, “You haven’t beat us and you guys will never beat us,” and then we beat them [8–7 in overtime]. It was a great game.
Q. What do you like about the team? How does it differ from other college teams?
A. We recently had a preseason scrimmage, and one of the coaches said something along the lines that we were “small in stature but deceptively physical.” I think that says a lot about us: We may not be the big time recruits or the big-time athletes, but we’re a bunch of guys who put everything on the line and scrap and play. In that sense we’re all the same, and I think that’s why we get along so well. We’re scrappy little fighters.