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Stickford Picks Up Lacrosse

Lake Braddock football player takes up lacrosse as way to train for football.

Lake Braddock defensive back Thomas Stickford isn't afraid to show off a bit of style and swagger on the field or with reporters.

His play with the varsity football team helped drive the Bruins to their first-ever state finals appearance in 2009.

Now, he's brought his athleticism to the Lake Braddock boys' lacrosse team.

During a pre-season practice with the lacrosse team, he displayed his confident attitude when asked about his future as a lacrosse player.

"I'm Thomas Stickford. All-region defensive back," he joked. "And future all-region midfielder."

His voice is calm and cool, which might make some believe his claim. Except for one little problem: It's his first year on the lacrosse team and first time ever holding a lacrosse stick.

So, about that all-region team?

"Yeah, it's not going so well," Stickford said with a laugh. "It's a difficult sport really. My stick skills are improved, but not at the point where I'm confident in them."

Stickford is a football player looking for a home in the spring sport of lacrosse. It will be months before he heads to James Madison University where he will play football. To keep in shape and stay active, he joined the lacrosse team.

"With football, I had four years to learn the concepts in my freshman year," he said. "In lacrosse, I guess I'm as good as I am at freshman football."

Head lacrosse coach Steve Price, an assistant coach with the football team, recruited Stickford to play for the lacrosse team while he was on the junior varsity baseball team.

"He didn't look happy on the [baseball] team," he said. "He wasn't playing very much."

With an opportunity to mold his defensive back into a defensive midfielder, Price helped Stickford get started in the sport. Now he's a go-to-guy for defensive play on the field.

"He's a great defensive midfielder," Price said. "He can get the ball up the field, and he's just got great speed. He's great at covering players."

Stickford's marriage of lacrosse with football training is starting pay off. At a recent JMU football workout session, Stickford said he noticed that lacrosse had improved his football skills.

"My footwork is so much quicker than everyone," he said. "I just feel great. All the running helps me out."

He's also found that while the sports are completely different in concept, there are similarities between a defensive back and a defensive midfielder.

"When we have a shutoff play, it's almost exactly like playing defensive back," he said. "It feels exactly the same. It's just like man-to-man defense in football."

Senior attacker Brandon Johnson, who also is a wide receiver on the football team, said the learning curve for lacrosse is the most difficult step for a football player to overcome.

"It's just learning how to play with the stick," he said. "Yeah, there's hitting and you need quickness, but learning how to throw and catch is the most difficult part of the transition."

Johnson has had a first-hand look at Stickford's development and has served as a mentor to his football teammate.

"He has gotten a lot better," Johnson said. "The first scrimmage we had he came out and just laid some kid out. He's learning the game."

Johnson is hoping that he might get the chance to assist on Stickford's first career goal.

"No goals yet this season [for Stickford], but he's had some pretty sick plays," he said. "He's had a bit of a dry spell, but I think he's going to break out of shell."

So maybe Stickford isn't all-region, but he's definitely earning his playing time with the Bruins.