Pro athlete combines brain, brawn

By David Mullen

The new local lacrosse team — the Dallas Rattlers of the Major Lacrosse League (MLL) — is off to a great start. They are in first place and have a 7-2 record heading into Atlanta on Saturday, June 23 to face the Blaze.

Their first round pick, Ben Reeves, is coming off of a 2018 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse championship with Yale, which was a first for the university. He was the Rattlers’ first round pick (fourth overall) in the 2018 MLL draft on April 19. At 6 foot-3, 205 pounds, the Rattlers went for brawn. In addition, they got brains.    

Born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., Reeves is the youngest of four boys. One is a physicist, one is an archeologist, the other is an engineer and they all played soccer. After initially committing to Hobart College, Yale University called.   

“My older brothers were soccer players that played lacrosse,” Reeves said. “I was introduced to lacrosse as a little kid, but I actually wanted to play football. I took a year off to focus on football, but I just gravitated back toward lacrosse and that is where I landed.”

Reeves graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. “It was great. There are so many unique opportunities there between the athletics and the academics. For example, I took a class this past year that was taught by a Nobel Prize winner. I had the opportunity to learn from someone like that and to be in that setting was pretty special. Being able to study with some of my peers — the kids are doing some incredible things there — I couldn’t thank the institution more for what it has done for me.”

Professional lacrosse players have other outside interests. Reeves is currently working in a research lab and has often stated that his dream is to find a cure for cancer. “It’s not necessarily just cancer,” Reeves said. “It is almost all diseases. What I find to be most interesting and what really drives me toward that type of medicine and research and a career is that almost every class I have taken, whether it is cell biology, molecular biology or physiology, it is zooming out from inside the cell to understanding the function of how all of the organ systems work together to keep a human alive. I really appreciate that.

“And then when something goes wrong whether at the cellular level or more macroscopic,” Reeves said, “it is really interesting to look at how little things and little changes in these systems can lead to catastrophic effects and how that has detrimental side effects on the body and can lead to diseases. And then, even better, is when we can look at the effects and possible treatments that revert these effects and bring it back to normal.”

Not your typical professional athlete.

“I took a class called cytoskeleton disease that I really loved. I was looking at the cytoskeleton and at the little proteins that you would never think of and how small mutations can lead to major diseases. So we would look at cells and the organs that they affected and look at the patient and look at the symptoms they deal with every day. It tied everything I love all together. When it comes to cancer, it is a hot topic today and it is a number one killer. It is a very smart disease.” It may come as no surprise that Reeves wants to become a doctor.

In his first professional game on July 17, Reeves had two goals in a 17-16 win over the Ohio Machine. “I like Dallas,” Reeves said. “It is a different change of pace. It’s a little warm, in fact [practicing] at 9 a.m. felt warmer than it ever would in upstate New York.

“I think the fact that we are in first place and have a very successful lacrosse team here in Dallas is big for the game,” Reeves said. “Having a great facility to play in [The Star in Frisco] helps fuel interest and brings in fans. It’s big for the game to grow from the Northeast. We can pull fans from the South, which will be an outreach for the game.”

He will stay in New Haven, Conn. while commuting to Dallas. Five years down the road he plans on finishing medical school, while playing lacrosse at a professional level. In both cases, Reeves — and the Dallas Rattlers — have made a very smart decision.              

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