It wasnt long after Brad McKinney first picked up a lacrosse stick as a youngster that he developed a passion for the sport.
It also wasnt long before the Watertown High school senior aspired to attend Syracuse University and play lacrosse. That dream has become a reality as McKinney signed a letter of intent Thursday morning to attend the school and take his lacrosse career to the collegiate level.
McKinney, who verbally committed to Syracuse back when he was as a junior last November, made it official and will receive an athletic scholarship from the university that Watertown boys lacrosse coach Brian Navarra called the Mecca of all lacrosse programs.
Its definitely been a dream of mine to go there, so it was an easy decision for me, McKinney said. This is a great moment for me.
Thursday was the first day of the NCAA early-signing period that lasts until next Thursday.
The midfielder didnt start playing lacrosse until he was in the eighth grade and, one year later, he was competing at the varsity level.
I just instantly fell in love with the sport, said McKinney, who donned an orange Syracuse cap after he signed the paperwork. I spent hours and hours on the turf and people where like why are you spending so much time on the turf? And I was like its because I want to get better and I truly love the game. Its a fun time.
At the end of my summer after eighth grade and going into ninth grade, I got really into lacrosse. And thats when I was like Syracuse is where I want to be.
McKinney has excelled in several other sports at Watertown, including soccer and swimming.
The one thing that I continue to here from Division coaches is they love to see student athletes play more than one sport and do well academically, Watertown athletic director Mike Lennox said. Brad is a four-year player at the varsity level in soccer and in lacrosse. Hes also a six-year varsity athlete in swimming, also here at Watertown. His commitment to academics and athletics is very impressive.
A member of the Sweetlax lacrosse club, McKinney also considered the University at Albany and Rutgers University, but Syracuse was tops.
Once we worked out the details it was a done deal, said McKinney, a two-time Times All-North first teamer in lacrosse. It was the easiest decision of my life. ... I just couldnt pass up this opportunity.
McKinney, who totaled 58 points, including a team-leading 43 goals for Watertowns lacrosse team last spring. As a sophomore, McKinney also compiled 58 points, including 35 goals.
Navarra credited much of McKinneys success to a steady work ethic. Brad just started playing lacrosse in the eighth grade, he said.
McKinney can now look forward to one final season with the Cyclones, who reached the semifinals in the Section 3 playoffs last spring.