It doesn’t matter where Ron John is playing lacrosse or which version of the game he’s playing (field or box); he loves it all the same.
John has had a stick in his hands for as long as he can remember. At just three years old, he was having the time of his life playing with his father in the backyard. From then on, there was never really a time when John wasn’t playing lacrosse. But it was when he started reaching his later teen years that he was truly making a name for himself.
A member of the Seneca Nation, John played with fellow young Indigenous talents at the 2016 U-19 World Field Lacrosse Championships for the Haudenosaunee Nationals. And when he wasn’t playing for his Haudenosaunee team, he was excelling on the field at Lake Shore High School in Angola, New York. Around that same time, John was also starting to explore how successful he could be at the box game.
“When I was in high school, that’s when I really got into playing box in Ontario,” John said. “Before that, I was just playing at home or traveling for my minor league teams. Once I got to Ontario, I saw how impressive the level of box lacrosse was and how competitive it was. I then changed gears and really picked up my game.”
Following five standout years playing under Scott Marr, a leader and coach that John credits for much of his growth as a man and as a player at the University of Albany, John had earned his way onto an NLL roster. He was given an opportunity with the Colorado Mammoth, which was a bit of a shock to the system since he was across the country from his home as a young kid playing for and with some very impressive NLL talents.
“I was probably more nervous than anything, especially being out in Colorado,” John said. “I didn’t really know too many guys, but I knew guys’ names, so putting names to faces was pretty awesome. With Pat Coyle as my coach, I was pretty nervous. I knew I was to be there, but I was in awe of everything that had come to fruition.”
Coming into his rookie NLL season at just 21 years old, John had usually played a prominent role on any of the teams he had played for. Now, at the highest level of professional box lacrosse, John would experience how hard it was going to be “the guy” for his team. His veteran teammates tried their best to make John feel comfortable with his new team.
Yet, despite putting forth a solid showing in his first ten games with the Mammoth, John, a defenseman, found out that even if you’re picking up loose balls, causing turn overs, and even helping his teammates out on scoring chances, you are expendable.
On the day of the 2022 NLL Trade Deadline, John would be traded to the New York Riptide along with his Mammoth teammate Tyler Digby in exchange for Tyson Gibson. It was one of the most challenging days in John’s lacrosse playing career, and he still remembers everything about that fateful day.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday, and I probably always will,” John said. “I was rooming with Warren Jefferey, and my girlfriend was actually also there with me, and then I got the call that morning, and it sucked. I had many plans that day – we were going to go up to the mountains – but then the trade happened, and there was nothing I could do. It was tough because I was just starting to get close with those guys, so having to leave those guys halfway through the season was weird and was one of the toughest parts about it.”
Regardless of how much he enjoyed being in Colorado, John now needed to ingratiate himself with his new teammates. Thankfully for him, John was already pretty close with a handful of guys on the Riptide before he even joined the club.
“They were a really solid group of guys that anyone would love,” John said. “It made it easy to become friends with them because they are actually a young group of guys. The captains and assistants were so open and reached out to me. Another part that made it easy was that I traveled with Larson Sundown, Gowah Abrams, and Jay Thorimbert, who were all guys from Buffalo. Larson and Gowah were actually guys that I played with during my minor days, so I was very close with them before all of this.”
With a chip now on his shoulder after being traded halfway through his first NLL season, John was ready to make an immediate impact with the Riptide.
Looking back at his rookie campaign, that first outing with the Riptide was his most complete game of the year. John recorded five loose balls, one caused turnover, and even added a career-high of three assists. In his second game with the team, John would register two caused turnovers, tying his career-high in that category. Only a couple of games after that, John would score his first NLL goal. John considers that first NLL goal to be one of the highlights of his playing career as he did it in Buffalo (near his hometown of Angola, New York) with family and friends in attendance.
After having those types of breakout performances in the second half of the season with the Riptide, John and his teammates were disappointed they didn’t make the playoffs. However, for a youthful, developing squad, they only missed the postseason by three games. John feels inspired coming into his second NLL season because he thinks he and the team will significantly improve.
“With such a young core of guys, the ceiling is pretty high,” John said. “Being just a couple of games out of the playoffs, in the locker room after the last game of the season last year, we were feeling confident going into this next season with the guys that we have, especially the leaders that we have because they are the ones that got us as far as we did.”
By Adam Levi