Men's Lacrosse: Brothers team up for Tigers
Leading the offense at 1952 Stadium against Ivy League foe Brown earlier this season, senior attack Jeff Froccaro earned his 100th point, joining only 26 others in the program’s storied history. What’s more, his milestone accomplishment came on an assist from none other than his younger brother and freshman midfielder Jake Froccaro. Brothers playing on the same nationally ranked varsity team would seem rare, but at Princeton, it's anything but — the duo comprise but one of the men’s lacrosse team’s three sibling pairings.
While the Froccaros sport an offensive flair, junior midfielder Jack Strabo and freshman defenseman Mark Strabo have proved integral to the Tigers’ defense. Similarly, junior and freshman middies Hunter and Austin deButts join the defensive rotation.
Jeff Froccaro could not attend a joint interview with The Daily Princetonian and thus could not respond to the various accusations leveled against him. For example, consensus held that Jake Froccaro would rout Jeff Froccaro in a game of one-on-one basketball. To add insult, Hunter deButts describes the senior attack as having “the oldest old man knees,” explaining that “this guy is icing more times than he’s not icing.”
The Strabos and deButtses concede that their defensive predilections apply to the hardwood as well. Mark Strabo gave his brother the slight edge on offense.
“I’m pretty good at defense. But don’t give me the ball,” Mark Strabo said.
Princeton isn’t the first context in which two of these families have intersected. The Strabo brothers hail from Arlington, Va. and the Landon School, both captaining the lacrosse team their senior years. Thirty or so minutes south — depending on D.C. traffic — the deButts brothers made their home in Alexandria and represented Landon’s rival Episcopal High School in football, basketball and lacrosse, likewise serving as lax captains.
The deButts brothers are by no means the first in their family to make their mark on Princeton athletics. Their sister Lindsey deButts ’12 started every game at defense for the women’s team during her four years at Princeton. But the legacy stretches back further to 1980, the graduating year of their parents, who both attended Princeton. Their father, Boota, and their mother, Shelley, captained the men’s lacrosse and women’s soccer teams, respectively.
The Froccaros hope their high school sophomore brother, Joey, can continue their legacy.
“It would be the same age difference as me and my brother," Jake Froccaro notes. "I’d be a senior when he’d be a freshman. We’re hoping for that.”
Jeff Froccaro — only able to respond by email — wrote, “We are all brothers and have very similar personalities, so I think Princeton is an appealing place for him as it was for me and Jake.”
Indeed, this aligning of stars was no coincidence. Each freshman identified having an older brother at Princeton as a contributing factor to his final decision. Mark Strabo cites a family presence as a clincher.
“For me, it was huge. It was definitely one of the main things that made me want to come here," he said. "I was deciding between Princeton and a few other schools, and having a brother here made it a pretty easy decision.”
During the March 1 telecast of Princeton’s tilt with Johns Hopkins, ESPNU had fun combining the Froccaro brothers into a single statistic. Similarly, should Jeff and Jake's stat lines be merged today, the result would be the NCAA's leading scorer. As expected, the sibling pair demonstrates superb chemistry on-field.
Via email, Jeff Froccaro explains their familiarity produces a solid rapport.
“We run plays all the time on the field that the two of us have practiced at our house in the backyard for years," he said. "The plays aren't strategically complicated, but it takes a practiced timing that is hard to garner.”
“As Coach [Chris] Bates says, he does the thinking for me," Jake Froccaro added self-deprecatingly. “Sometimes I don’t really think on the field, so I’ll have to ask him if I’m doing the right thing.”
The sibling dynamic is at once recognizable and impossible to pin down. No two relationships are identical, and each is entirely knowable only to its constituents.
For example, Hunter deButts explains a classic sibling moment as only one involved could.
“Austin and I, we fought a lot. He was always my kind of test dummy," he said. "One time we were at the top of the steps. And I put him in this brown box, this cardboard box. It was a pretty tall staircase. But I put a couple of pillows in there and padded it up. He had a helmet on ... ”
Suffice it to say the story ends, approximately, in "thud thud thud crash!"
The younger Strabo explains his and his brother’s inexplicable shared humor.
“There are a lot of times when we’re just laughing our asses off," Mark Strabo said. "We’ll be walking around and see each other and start laughing. Everyone’ll be like, ‘Goddamn, Strabo brothers.’ ”
Jack Strabo also points to their inexplicably shared sense of fashion.
“There are a lot of times, too, when we show up to the same place and we’re literally wearing the exact same thing,” he said.Jake Froccaro identifies his and his brother’s on-field quirk.
“The weirdest thing that me and my brother do that everyone makes fun of us for — mainly Coach Bates — is that we have ChapStick, or at least I do, every single game. I keep it in my sock," he said. “My bro will ask me for it, which is key. If your lips aren’t moist, you can’t play.”
Earlier this year John Harbaugh coached the Baltimore Ravens against his younger brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers. Dubbed the HarBowl, the game provided the media with endless fodder for family talk. Who was daredevil child growing up? Would they shake hands or hug after the game? Similarly, the sports world inquires into backyard pigskin dynamics whenever the Manning Bowl rolls around. Competition between brothers seems to have a special resonance in sport culture.
When asked about his experience playing alongside his older brother, the younger Froccaro identifies an idea central to the understanding of camaraderie in sports: One doesn’t need a team of blood relatives to be surrounded by brothers on the field.
“It’s just special; that’s the best word for it," Jake Froccaro said. "To be on the feld with [Jeff] every game is just an unbelievable experience. But I think I’ve built a brotherhood with just about everyone on this team. I love every one of my teammates the same way.”
Responding to the elder deButts’ mocking — in classic brotherly form — Jake Froccaro added, “Everyone except for Hunter.”