When people become critical of schools known for pursuing freshmen, they’ll often question any program that would take a kid who has yet to play a minute of high school ball. Just don’t state that argument when it comes to the Wolverines taking a commitment from Irondequoit (N.Y.) midfielder John John Lombardi. A super athletic sparkplug standing 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds, Lombardi didn’t sit on the varsity team’s sidelines varsity ball as an eighth grader, he was dominant as a starter. Playing in the competitive Section 5 Class B up in the greater Rochester area, the promising middie tallied 26 goals and 17 assists to earn honorable mention All-League recognition.
SweetLax head coach Kevin Martin remembers John John as a ballboy back when he coached the elder Lombardi at Aquinas Institute. In fact, the work ethic began at that point and has never left.
“I would send him over to the wall and told him that’s where he needed to be if he didn’t want to be a FOGO,” Martin said. “He’s been there ever since working on his stick work and is a tremendous hard worker who has probably been in the gym since he was born.”
All of that work has paid dividends so far, as Lombardi is one of the more highly talked about freshmen by top college coaches. He’s been groomed by some of Rochester’s best as well, playing Junior B box with players like Nick Doktor (Penn) and Greg Coholan (Virginia) when time allows in the summer. As an eighth grader.
Last year with the Eagles, Lombardi would take face-offs and then come down to play attack. Dodging against longpoles with a running back-like mentality, he’s also a two-way starter on the varsity football team.
“He reminds me of when I used to coach against Matt Rambo, a kid who just brings it every game and doesn’t care who we’re playing. You get him angry, you better watch out,” Martin says. “He’s intense and makes sick decisions and is extremely coachable. The bottom line is that he’s going to be a very special player in college.”
I was able to touch base with Lombardi – who also considered UNC, Penn State, Syracuse, Hopkins, Virginia, Ohio State and Maryland – on Thursday morning for a Q&A session:
Knowing how early the recruiting timeline is, did you ever feel pressure to perform well in front of college coaches this past summer or to make an early decision?
Even though the timeline is very early, I did not feel pressure at all to perform over the summer in front of coaches. I love playing the game and I just go out there and have fun. However, I take the preparation very seriously. I strength and speed train three times a week and everyday I shoot and play wall ball – the stick never leaves my hand.
What was it about Michigan that stood out to you enough to pull the trigger so early? When was your visit and how did it go?
I visited Michigan on September 28th. I was immediately made comfortable by the entire coaching staff and it didn’t take long before I knew that this is where I belonged. I just got a really good feeling about the University and the direction of the lacrosse program so it’s exciting that I will be part of all of this. Now that the process is complete, I can focus my efforts on getting better everyday so I can make an impact on the field from the moment I step on campus.
What’s Irondequoit’s outlook for the spring of 2015?
We are a bit young but have experience at key positions. Irondequoit lacrosse is loaded with tradition and every year we are competitive so I don’t expect that this year will be any different. I really enjoy playing with these guys and we are a close group on and off the field.
Who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank my SweetLax coach Kevin Martin for his guidance throughout the process. I also have my family to thank for all of their support, especially my brother, Billy, who plays lacrosse at Penn State. I have looked up to and admired him my entire life!