Mustachioed Brad Smith the 'Heir Apparent' in Whipsnakes Midfield

PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE


The mustache is the first thing many people notice about Brad Smith. It extends past his smile and curls a little at the ends, reminiscent of former Major League Baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers.

He first grew one 10 years ago while he was a high school football player at Mountain Lakes (N.J.) as part of a “Movember” fundraiser.

He said his mother and sister hate it. His Whipsnakes teammate, Matt Rambo, said it was the best in the game. His coach, Jim Stagnitta, said that if Smith thinks he looks good, “That’s all that matters.”

Smith isn’t too concerned with what others think about his mustache, however; he does it because it’s something he likes.

“It’s for a good cause, so I don’t listen to the people that don’t like it,” said Smith, who will be partnering with Arete Lacrosse, based out of Minnesota, to start a non-profit Movember team for the fall of 2021.

While Stagnitta is noncommittal regarding his thoughts about Smith’s mustache, something he is more adamant about is that soon Smith will be known by lacrosse fans for more than just his facial hair.

“He’s the heir apparent. He’s our next Mike Chanenchuk and John Haus,” Stagnitta said. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve pushed him and challenged him. We need Brad. We need him now, and we will need him in the future to be that guy. He can be one of the great ones and have sustainability in this league.”

It also isn’t just Stagnitta who believes Smith will be the “alpha guy at the midfield.”

“Best part about Brad is his career is just getting started,” said Whipsnakes teammate Justin Guterding, who also played with Smith at Duke. “He will be one of the best midfielders to ever play this game, just wait.”

“We had him and Zed [Williams] coming onto our team as new guys [in 2020],” Rambo said. “We said, ‘You have the keys to the offense as well. It’s not just the guys that have been here. Whenever you have a good matchup, go ball out.’ When he did ball out, I was like, ‘This guy is legit.’ He’s one of the best middies in the league.”

The sentiment that Smith could be one of the top midfielders in the league — let alone in the history of the game — may come as a bit of a surprise to some. Smith didn’t come into the PLL with the same hype as other first-year players, nor did he get selected to play in the 2021 PLL All-Star Game like Grant Ament, Bryan Costabile, Jeff Teat, Michael Sowers or TD Ierlan. On his own team, he’s overshadowed by the first two MVPs in PLL history in Rambo and Williams.

Smith isn’t bothered by the lack of attention. He said learning not to be distracted by outside noise is one of the biggest lessons he’s learned while being a member of the veteran-heavy Whipsnakes.

“The biggest thing for me is playing lacrosse,” he said. “It’s not thinking about stuff, like don’t worry about the social media and publicity that’s outside of the locker room. The team is all that matters. That mindset, guys like Mike Chanenchuk, John Haus, Jeremy Sieverts, Matt Abbott, instilling that mindset that it’s your game, you have the freedom to play it the way you want — that’s been powerful and super helpful.”







Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2019 PLL Collegiate Draft, but he didn’t make his debut until the 2020 PLL Championship Series because of a foot injury. In 2020, he had at least one point in all six games, including one goal and five assists in the team’s overtime victory over the Redwoods in the semifinals.

After a successful Championship Series, Smith was tasked for an even larger role in 2021. The offense took a hit when Rambo missed three games during the regular season, and the team went 1-2 during that stretch and averaged fewer than 10 goals per game.

It wasn’t the brightest point of the team’s season, but it was an opportunity for Smith to play an even larger role in the offense. He had two of his highest point totals during that time frame, scoring four goals and adding an assist in a victory over the Archers and tallying one goal and two assists the following week in a loss to the Redwoods.

“We know Brad is going to step up every game,” Rambo said. “It’s no different. We just gave him a little bit bigger of a plate. He handled it well. You can see he wants that. He wants to be the guy.”

Smith finished the regular season with 11 goals and 10 assists, and his 21 points were second-most on the team.

He said he loves being a part of the Whipsnakes, and he is motivated by the faith the coaches and his teammates show in him.

“They have the confidence in me to go out and perform every weekend,” he said. “The support from coaches and all my teammates is a big part of the season I’m having right now. They’re a huge part of it. Coach Stags is hard on me, but he says it’s because he knows I can be great. That tough love gets me going. I’ve got the best teammates, the best coaches, and they’re a big part of what I play for.”

While Smith said his teammates are helping him, Stagnitta said Smith is making things easier for his teammates.

“You have Brad playing at a high level in the midfield, and now, people are focused on Brad, and it opens up opportunities,” Stagnitta said. “It means a shortie is on Guti and [Connor] Kirst and Haus, and it makes everybody better. It makes us more diverse. At one point, people were focused on Brad and Zed, and now, Brad is drawing the pole, and people say he is the most dangerous dodger and shooter at the midfield for that team. It makes everybody else better.”

After scoring a goal and adding an assist in the first-round playoff victory over the Redwoods, Smith and the Whipsnakes went up against the top-seeded Waterdogs and fellow mustachioed midfielder Mikie Schlosser. Smith had two goals and two assists in the victory, earning a spot in the championship game against the Chaos, a rematch of the 2020 title contest.

While Smith has been challenged to raise his game individually, the focus heading into the final game of the season is helping the Whipsnakes remain the only champion in league history.

“That’s the goal of every season you put on the jersey,” he said. “Getting to this point is a huge accomplishment, especially with the talent in the league. It’s not an easy thing to do. We’re fortunate and pumped to be here. At the end of the day, it’s another game. There’s a ton on the line, but we’re preparing, and the mindset is still the same, going out and competing and playing the best lacrosse we can.”

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