Trying to Outrun Father Time
In the midst of comebacks, Roy Colsey and Brian Carcaterra are in a footrace against time. Are they nuts? Only time will tell.
Every great athlete who has ever played in to their 40s eventually has to face THE question. “Am I still good enough?”
Whether they admit it nor not (and they likely won’t admit it), anyone in that position is chasing a ghost, the 20- and 30-year-old ass-kicking version of themselves that could score any goal, perform any athletic feat and generally do as they pleased on the field of play.
A few, like Tom Brady, who continues slinging footballs and winning titles (well, almost) into his 40s; Washington Wizards Michael Jordan version 4.0 who tallied 40 points after his 40th birthday and Dara Torres, who won swimming gold after 40, manage to perform at a high level even after entering their fourth decade of life.
For anyone else endeavoring to continue playing professional sports after 40, these kinds of feats are a pipe dream. Just contributing is probably enough.
That is where Brian Carcaterra and Roy Colsey currently find themselves. Both former NCAA All-Americans (and in Colsey’s case, former NCAA and Major Lacrosse League champion and current Hall of Famer) are attempting lacrosse comebacks at or past the age of 40. Carcaterra, 40, has a tryout scheduled with the MLL’s New York Lizards in April and Colsey, 44, is trying to make the 2019 United States Box Lacrosse team.
In the inevitable foot race with Father Time (a race in which he is undefeated, by the way), Carcaterra and Colsey are content to just stay even.
In January, “Carc” was taken as the very last pick in the MLL’s supplemental draft, Mr. Irrelevant if you will. Most folks who know anything about lacrosse have an opinion about his chance of actually making the team. Snowballs and hell come to mind.
“When I first heard that Brian was making a comeback I thought to myself, has he officially lost his mind?” said older brother Paul. “After some thought and knowing him as well as I do, it’s not that crazy. He loves the game, the people involved with our sport, and competition.”
A former Hopkins keeper himself and Carcaterra’s goalie coach at Johns Hopkins his junior and senior seasons, current Utah coach Brian Holman pulls no punches when assessing Carcaterra’s comeback attempt.
“I’m not telling you anything I wouldn’t tell him, but I don’t think people are giving the MLL the respect it deserves,” he said. “I don’t think he realizes how fast the game is compared to when he played. Everyone shoots the ball at warp speed. Personally I don’t think it’s going to work.”
When Carcaterra announced his plan, the decision wasn’t greeted with open arms in all corners. His wife Amanda, who also happens to be pregnant with their third child, was supportive, but not a huge fan of the idea. Holman was perplexed.
“At first I thought it was a prank, that Carc was screwing with everybody,” he said.
For Colsey his comeback became official when he took part in the USA box lacrosse Blue-White exhibition/tryout as part of the US Lacrosse Convention in January. Much like Carcaterra, though, Colsey understands life at 40 means tempered expectations.
“I’m not quick enough or fast enough to get my own shot,” he told US Lacrosse magazine after the game. “I told the guys it’s kind of like riding a bike except I could really use one of those electric bikes. I could use that motor."
Growing up in Yorktown lacrosse isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life. What football is in towns all across Texas, lacrosse is to Yorktown. Colsey and Carcaterra are just two names on an impressive who’s who list of All Americans: Scott Marr, Dom Fin, Rob Kavovit, Rob Doerr and Austin Fusco, just to name a few. Spurred on by plumbing contractor Charlie Murphy in the mid 1960s when the game was still an obscure undertaking few outside New York and Baltimore knew much, if anything, about, the Yorktown lacrosse community is close. For nearly 40 years if you were a lacrosse player in Yorktown, Murphy’s home on Murphy Hill Road was the place to be.
“Yorktown’s different,” said Carcaterra. “The lacrosse community makes it closer.”
In other words, lacrosse is Yorktown and Yorktown is lacrosse. This is where Colsey and Carcaterra began their careers. Carcaterra tells of how he became a goalie if for no other reason than Paul and his other older brother Steve needed someone to throw the ball at when they were growing up.
Despite coming from a lacrosse town, Carcaterra and Colsey have never been lacrosse royalty. Legendary Syracuse coach Roy Simmons once told the Baltimore Sun that Colsey was a “… blue collar worker in a white collar game.” Both Colsey and Character worked for everything they have earned, which is why their latest comeback isn’t a surprise to those who know them.
“He has a tremendous work ethic,” said Holman of Carcaterra.
After joining the Yorktown High School team as a scrawny 105-pound freshman and eventually earning two state titles, Carcaterra walked on at Johns Hopkins where he blossomed into a three-time All American, including a first-team nod as a sophomore. Undersized as a player Carcaterra attacked the game like a terrier, using an aggressive style that included long forays outside the box with the ball. It made for an unforgettable playing style people still remember today.
“One of the things I’ve loved about Brian is his passion for the game,” said Holman. “I encouraged him to play that way.”
Carcaterra, who is the last four-year starter in goal for the Jays, ended his career second in school history in career saves (689) and fifth in save percentage (.595) and led the Jays to two NCAA finals appearances. He was also a three-time All American, including a first-team nod as a sophomore.
After earning two state titles as well at Yorktown, Colsey starred at Syracuse and was the engine that powered the Orange to two of its record 10 national titles along with the likes of Casey Powell, Ric Beardsley, Fin, Tom Marechek, Kavovit and Charlie Lockwood, among others. In 1995 against Loyola he scored seven goals in a game, still among the school records and led the team in scoring (44g) and points (57) in 1994. He was also a four-time All American (three times first team) and the midfielder of the year in 1995.
Following their respective college careers, Colsey and Carcaterra both embarked on professional lacrosse careers. Carcaterra was drafted in the sixth round by his hometown Long Island (now New York) Lizards where he played for two seasons. He compiled a .722 winning percentage, a .558 save percentage and was part of the Lizards team which made it to the 2002 MLL championship game.
Colsey started indoors in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) here he spent nine seasons (1996-2007) with Rochester, New York, Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.
In 2001, he also joined the MLL and spent his entire playing for Philadelphia Barrage. He still holds several franchise records, including goals, points and two-pointers. He also led the Barrage to three MLL championships and in 2006 he joined the Men's U.S National Lacrosse Team. Along the way he compiled highlight clips like this and this.
Aside form being a four-time MLL all star, he was also named the MLL Championship MVP in 2006 as the Barrage won its second of three championships while he was there. Internationally, he was named to the US national outdoor team in 2006.
In 2012 Colsey capped it all off by being inducted in to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
So why come back? Why now? Why at all? Again, both men are driven by competitive spirits that may have dimmed over time, but never really went out.
Among other things, Carcaterra wants to set an example for his two (soon to be three) kids.
That said, all the competitive spirit and past accolades and awards in the world will only take you so far, especially when you are a now 40-year old former, out-of-shape athlete. Carcaterra learned that first hand when he decided to stage his comeback.
After initially getting back in to the game by playing in several summer leagues, he hardly resembled someone who might want to stage a professional comeback.
“I had been lazy piece of you know what,” he said. “Playing in the summer beer leagues first it was difficult and I wasn’t very good.”
To get back in shape, he contacted former high school pal and University of Albany football player, now fitness trainer, Rob Anderson.
The two laid out a physical fitness regimen in painstaking detail. They assessed Carcaterra’s entire life, physical, mental and nutritional. Their four-month plan, which included not only workouts but suggested meal plans, took Carcaterra right up to his tryout with the Lizards in early April. Because Carcaterra, whose job as the executive vice president of commercial real state company CBRE requires him to travel extensively, the challenge was eating well and working out even while on the road.
“His business didn’t stop once he stated training,” Anderson said. “He’s flying across the country and he still needs a program wherever he is.
“[The challenges included] teaching him what his meals need to look like when he goes out to eat.”
Carcaterra’s high intensity workouts focused on footwork and agility and spanned about an hour a day, five days a week. That and a tailored nutritional intake helped Carcaterra drop nearly 10 pounds and get close to 10% body fat. More importantly he started start to feel better about himself. On the field he started to see the ball better and react better as the game he’s played since childhood began returning to him.
Working with Anderson also allowed him to work off the rust and increase his flexibility and mobility.
“Being away from the game and being 40 certainly will present challenges for Brian,” said Paul. “I can tell you that he is a smarter goalie now and will be in shape.”
For his part, Colsey has always been in good shape. His ability to stay in shape likely helped when he decided to try and join the US Box lacrosse team.
In a recent tryout/exhibition at the Blue-White Exhibition at the US Lacrosse Convention (Laxcon) in Baltimore, Colsey was still going strong in the fourth quarter and set an important pick that led to the game-winning goal by Marcus Holman.
They’ve been playing varsity lacrosse at Johns Hopkins and Syracuse for well over a hundred years, 135 years at Hopkins and 102 at the ‘Cuse. They are top two teams in NCAA history in terms of NCAA titles won (10 for Syracuse, nine for Hopkins).
To play, let alone start and star for either of these programs speaks volumes about your ability. Having starred for both programs means Colsey and Carcaterra both can rely on natural athletic abilities honed from years of playing at the highest level in their comebacks, even if those abilities (and their athleticism) isn’t what they once were.
“I’ll be ready to compete,” said Brian. “I’m not going to be intimidated.”
If nothing else, age brings with it wisdom and perspective. And in Carcaterra and Colsey’s cases, it also brings a dose of reality and pragmaticism about their situations. While the self-assurance that once drove them to the highest levels of the sport is still there, they know the deal. Carcaterra is fine serving as a backup to current Lizard stopper Drew Adams.
“If I even get close to that level [I used to be at] I’ll be pleased,” [Current Lizards keeper] Drew Adams is one of the best goalies in the world.”
On his way to Philadelphia to work out with pal and current Lizards defensive coordinator and Springfield (PA) Chestnut Hill Academy head coach Brian “Doc” Dougherty when he found out he’d been drafted, Carcaterra is just thrilled to get a second chance to play the game he loves. For those who remember his high flying days at Homewood, they may not recognize Carcaterra version 2.0.
“My biggest concern isn’t the pain of the ball hitting me. It’s doing something out of the goal that I used to do,” he said. “I have to be careful. It will be more of a challenge for me to get to midfield. I’ll be playing it a little more conservative.”
Colsey has also expressed a desire just to contribute. Given his vast experience compared to his younger teammates (as of the Lexicon exhibition, Colsey had played in 107 indoor games and scored 216 goals while the other 43 participants in the game [11 of which who have played in at least one NLL game] had played in 402 games and scored 106 goals), that is not an insignificant goal.
As such, Colsey spent much of his time in Baltimore tutoring younger players like Myles Jones, who expressed amazement at the amount of knowledge he was able to glean from Colsey, who is almost twice his age.
Even though Carcaterra still has the confidence of someone who was once good enough to be an All-American and starter for one the nation’s blueblood lacrosse programs, nagging doubts linger. Apparently 40-year old psyches are just as fragile as 40-year old bodies.
“I’ll be physically ready,” Carcaterra said. “But will I be mentally ready to give up a couple of tough ones. Will I be thrown off by the speed?”
While their decision to draft Carcaterra (again) raised more than a few eyebrows, the Lizards are resolute that this isn’t some sort of gimmick or ploy to get butts in the seats. In their eyes, he still has enough gas in the tank to give him one more try.
“Doc wanted to give him a shot,” said Lizards senior VP Tom Dissette. “[Head coach Joe] Spallina goes for talent. He feels he’s worth giving him a shot.”
Regardless of how this ends for Carcaterra and Colsey, both are ready. They have too much pride, drive and desire to be anything but.
“He has too much pride to embarrass himself and I think his expectations are to add value to the team, like they always have been,” said Paul. “What that entails, we will see.”