HILL EMBRACES INDIGENOUS ROOTS IN LIFE AND LACROSSEApr 16, 2019
By Mitchell Courtney -- The path to professional success is one that is usually lined with obstacles that one must overcome to reach their goals. This rings especially true for first-year Knighthawk goaltender Warren Hill, who has recently taken advantage of an expanded opportunity.
In high school, Hill was a standout lacrosse player at The Hill Academy; learning from the likes of lacrosse legend Brodie Merrill. However, he fell just short of his goal of playing for a Division I school straight out of high school. Although his situation was not ideal, Hill noted that the experience helped to mold him into the person and the player that he is today.
“I wanted to go to a Division I school right out of high school, but unfortunately I had some catching up to do in terms of my schooling,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to do a post-grad year at The Hill Academy, and I learned a lot under Brodie Merrill there.”
After he caught up on the academic side of things, Hill exploded onto the scene with one of the country’s top junior college programs, Onondaga Community College. OCC was and still is a premier destination for lacrosse players looking to make their way to Division I programs and then to the professional ranks. For Hill, the experience meant more to him than just playing lacrosse.
“I had to put my nose to the grindstone. I went to Onondaga Community College for two years, and I learned a lot about myself,” he said. “It was a great experience. I got to play under Chuck Wilbur and really learn to be on my own.”
After earning NJCAA Player of the Year honors at OCC, Hill made his way to Syracuse University, where so many Knighthawks before him have made their mark at the college level. Prior to his time with the Orange, Hill admired current Knighthawks Cody Jamieson throughout his time with Syracuse.
“It was something that I always wanted to do [play at Syracuse] growing up in Six Nations, watching guys like Cody Jamieson do the same,” he said.
Although his collegiate career was a tad bit unconventional, Hills finds comfort knowing that there are other NLL players who have had similar experiences. In fact, one of his teammates at OCC is now finding success with the Georgia Swarm.
“Randy Staats is a friend of mine, and I took the same path to the league,” said Hill. “It was definitely a lot of work, but it ended up working out in the end.”
After his senior season at Syracuse, Hill was selected with the 20th pick in the 2016 NLL Entry Draft by the Swarm. As per usual for goaltenders at the NLL level, Hill had to pay his dues as a practice squad player before rising up the ranks.
“I knew there was a kind of waiting period, especially with goalies,” said Hill. “There are a few guys that can jump right in and start, but for most guys, there is definitely a transition period.”
Hill explained that his time in Georgia was nothing short of a fantastic learning experience and that his time with the Swarm prepared him for a bigger role in Rochester.
“In my first year with Georgia they had two established goalies, so I was on the practice roster,” he said. “I got to pick my teammates brains and learn as much as I possibly could. I got my shot in my second season to be Mike Poulin’s backup in Georgia, and I continued to work hard. This year, I have had a tremendous opportunity with Rochester.”
After arriving in Rochester, Hill found a role as the Knighthawks’ primary backup before earning starts later in the season. While behind Knighthawk fan favorite Angus Goodleaf, he learned a tremendous amount about the game and what it means to be a professional.
“My only goal for myself at this point is just to make the most of my opportunities,” he said. “I try to learn as much as I can every day, and I am still picking the brains of the other guys on the team. Angus [Goodleaf] has been great to me through everything.”
Although 2019 brought Hill his biggest opportunity in Rochester and his career, it was not his first experience in Blue Cross Arena. His uncles Cory and Cam Bomberry both played for the Knighthawks, and Hill recalls coming to Rochester as a young child to watch them play at the highest level.
“I started coming to games at Blue Cross Arena when I was about seven years old to watch them play,” he said. “They have been supportive along the way, and I know that they are happy for me.”
His lacrosse bloodlines have heavily influenced his path to NLL success, but the game is still therapeutic for 26-year-old Six Nations native.
“We all have a lot of pride in the game we play,” he said. “In the Native culture, it is a powerful game, one that is meant for healing. I could be having the worst week ever, and as soon as I get on that floor, nothing else matters.”
Indigenous culture involves healing through the medicine game, and a love for lacrosse is essentially there from the time you are born. It is a shared experience that many come to love, and Hill is no different.
“Lacrosse is almost like a rite of passage in Six Nations,” said Hill. “It is what we do, but it is also what we love.”