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5 and 5: Questions with pro lacrosse player Matt McMahon

Welcome to another edition of the “5 and 5” where we sit down with the top players in lacrosse and ask them five questions about life on the lacrosse field and five questions about life off the field.

This week’s “5 and 5” features PLL all-star and Archers LC defender Matt McMahon. We discuss his “whacky” pre-game routine with Archers LC teammate Ryan Ambler, the PLL team he enjoys facing the most, favorite Quentin Tarantino movie and much more.

5 questions about lacrosse

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What are some of your pregame superstitions or routines?

Matt McMahon: I don’t know that I have many. I definitely think I have to get taped up, do this do and do that before the game, otherwise I’m a little out of whack, but one in particular, that’s not necessarily my superstition, but it definitely gets me excited to play involves Ryan Ambler. I’ve been playing with Ryan Ambler for three years now and in order to get himself mentally prepared to dodge full speed and collide with somebody, he likes to get a little contact before the game.

So after we do the national anthem, we bring it in, and right before we take the field Ryan grabs a ball, holds his stick and says “Just whack the crap out of my arm like five times.” So he lets me lay into him and hit him as hard as I can. I always die laughing as I do it and he’s super amped up so it’s a nice little icebreaker before we get on to the field and to just remember to have fun with it and not be so serious.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: Which of your rival teams in the league do you enjoy playing against the most?

Matt McMahon: I think it could go a number of ways, but I think we all really like playing the Chrome. It’s fun that we can really draw these parallels now that the leagues have merged, but that team was always a pain in the ass to play against when they were the [Rochester Rattlers]. That core group was part of a really successful Rattlers team for a number of years and definitely the entirety of my pro lacrosse career.

So when we played them out in Ohio, they always had our number and they were always the team that would stop the [Ohio] Machine dead in its tracks in the playoffs and never let us get to the championship. All those games were overtime, barn burners and most times heartbreakers for us. What makes that group really special is that they’re so tight and they know that they’re never out of the fight. So you can put up a five-goal lead on them in the second quarter and you have to keep it in the back of your mind that these guys believe that they can win no matter what.

So that’s been really fun the past two years of the PLL, playing against that team because you know that you could be playing really well and they’re coming with with some rally at some point in the game. Sure enough this year was the perfect example of it. I think we went up around 8-2 or something early in the game and all the veteran guys on the Archers were saying “you have to be ready for when they tie the game inevitably in the fourth quarter.” And sure enough they did with around a minute and a half to go, but I think the experience with the Ohio Machine had a lot of those guys on the Archers thinking this is standard procedure for this Rattlers/Chrome team. So nobody was freaked out that we had blown a six-goal lead. We thought “let’s just get the ball back and score” and we did that and then we scored in overtime and it was a lot of fun.

That’s a team that I think everybody on the Archers has a ton of respect for just because of how hard they play and it just translates to making the games a lot of fun. You have to play the full clock in order to beat them, which is the most fun lacrosse to play.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What has been your favorite venue to play lacrosse at?

Matt McMahon: Red Bull [Arena] was a pretty cool arena. It was cool to be so close to family and that was an important feeling to just know who was in the stands. The stadium in Los Angeles was out of this world and that was one of the most luxury sporting venue I’ve ever been to. So, that one was really cool. All these MLS stadiums are. I’m excited to hopefully have fans there this year because I really do think that the PLL stepped their game up in terms of what they’re going to be able to do filling the seats and I think that these MLS stadiums are the perfect thing for us to grow into. That championship game in Philly was a pretty electric environment and a beautiful stadium. They all kind of blend together in the sense that they’re these awesome brand new arenas and I’m excited to fill the place itself and and see how that feels.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: Who’s a teammate that you’ve leaned on as a mentor during your career?

Matt McMahon: As it pertains to my lacrosse career, I’ve drawn a lot from my relationship with Adam Ghitelman. As I’ve started to realize my couple years playing pro, so much of the game at this level is mental on the defensive end, where it’s understanding what certain players are looking to do and understanding what certain offenses are looking at and how they’re trying to generate is just such a colossal advantage to have. I started to play with him in 2019 with the Archers and had heard a lot about him, but never really met him before. He was just this really great friend from the start and always had this huge passion for studying film and the benefits behind it.

He opened my eyes to weaponizing film and putting so much time into it that it becomes a strength in your game. I think for me as a player, [it’s important to] to dedicate a good amount of time to watch film on our opponents and dissect what their game plan and strategy would be for our upcoming matchup. So that’s a relationship that’s brought a lot of value to me in the first two years of playing in the PLL.

He’s also just been an outstanding teammate in terms of challenging me to be better on the field and be a leader and I’m excited for his coaching career to continue just knowing what he’s done for me as a peer in the locker room. So that’s been a great relationship within this Archers team.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What is your current stick setup and what are you rocking these days in terms of stringing, shaft and head?

Matt McMahon: I’ve been trying to mess with my Epoch setup a little bit. That was one of the changes I made going in the season last year because the first season I used the Epoch Z One which I caught a lot of flack for because its the same head that most of the offensive guys like Matt Rambo and Jules Heningburg primarily use. They’re all using the Z One which is this super narrow, low pocket head, but I just thought it was super light and great for picking off passes and picking up GBs. So, I used that the first season and I think that Jared Neumann might have as well.

Last year I said “alright, I kind of want to try something a little bit wider, see if I can grab some more knockdowns and stuff.” I used their ID Vision which is actually I think more of honestly a younger player head but it works great and I liked it. I had it strung up usually by Brian Hochman and those guys; there are some Epoch string wizards in the office there that take care of it for me. But this year, my buddy Lou [Aboyoun], who coaches the Mad Dog program, set me up with some perfectly dialed ones to head out to the tournament. So I could actually catch and throw this year, which was an improvement last year.

Photo courtesy of PLL

5 questions about life

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What are some hobbies or activities you enjoy off the field?

Matt McMahon: That’s a good question. I feel like 2020 was the year of developing hobbies and digging into that stuff. I’ve gotten really into the coffee and beer game. I’ve been spending the past year checking out different breweries and coffee shops, just given that it’s one of the few things you can routinely get away with doing and be COVID safe. My brother is a bit of a beer enthusiast and so we’ll go check out a nice brewery or something.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What’s a podcast, movie, book, or TV show that you’ve been binging?

Matt McMahon: I just watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I’m a big fan of the Tarantino movies and that was a long one, but it was really good so that would be my most recent recommendation on the movie front. My favorite Quentin Tarantino film is probably Reservoir Dogs. I think it’s one of the cleanest ones. It’s such a good story; the characters are great and he does it all super efficiently. It doesn’t require a three and a half hour process of character development, but it’s a badass movie and fun to watch and re-watch.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: Who’s a player in another sport that you really enjoy watching right now?

Matt McMahon: I don’t know how big of basketball fans you guys are, but Luka Doncic is one of my favorite athletes to watch in any sport. His approach to the game of basketball is just so interesting and different and skill-oriented. He is on this stage with all the best players in the world and he still looks like he’s playing with high schoolers. He’s just such a cut above and just so creative. It’s really fun to watch him compete and not even hit his ceiling. When Joey Sankey asked me to change numbers with him this year, I was choosing between a couple and I was thought you know what Doncic is 77, so I’m going to be 77.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What is your favorite spot to vacation?

Matt McMahon: I’ve always been a big fan of the outdoors and just getting outside. This past summer after the tournament was over I got to go out to Yosemite National Park. I’ve been ticking through the national parks and the best natural attractions in the U.S. And that’s always what I’ve liked to do in terms of traveling more so than getting a cultural experience or going to a beach somewhere. So, that’s where I like to vacation and get some relaxation. I went up to Maine for about two months and stayed with the some family up there this past summer after the tournament and that was pretty insane. It was just so beautiful every day and made me think I should start looking to buy a cabin out there.

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What is your favorite meal and do you prefer to dine out, take out or cook at home?

Matt McMahon: I think I have a regular rotation of five different favorites. I’ve gotten really into ramen and sushi. Growing up in New Jersey with my mom who is a big time Italian cook, we ate at home every night. I didn’t really have sushi until I was probably 23 or 24-years-old. And then we went over to Tokyo last year with the PLL and that was basically all we were eating for a week and a half. I thought “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve been missing this my whole life.” So that’s been heavily into the rotation this past year. I think anytime I order out it’s sushi or ramen.

Overtime

Pro Lacrosse Talk: What is some advice that you have for young player looking to one day play lacrosse professionally?

Matt McMahon: I think that answer might sound a little cliche, but never really think that where you’re at is good enough and that you know everything or that there’s nothing left to learn. I’m 28-years-old. I’ve been playing for over a decade and I still show up to practice with the intention of learning something and getting better. I think that there can be a mindset that creeps into young players’ heads when they might commit to a good school or get named all conference that they made it and they’re hot stuff now, but that that mindset is only going to limit you and what you can accomplish. So, it’s good to be proud of your achievements and accomplishments, but always having the mindset that there’s a better version of you out there and that you have to focus on doing the things that get you there has been something that’s really helped me throughout my career and is something that I try to tell any young player that I get to coach.

You can hear more from Matt McMahon on the Pro Lacrosse Talk podcast.

Pro Lacrosse Talk was created by Adam Moore and Hutton Jackson, two former NCAA athletes and lifetime lacrosse fans who recognized the need for a platform devoted solely to professional lacrosse. The Pro Lacrosse Talk podcast is the first and only podcast covering all three professional lacrosse leagues (NLL, PLL, Athletes Unlimited) and remains the main source for pro lacrosse news.

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