by Gail Callahan '86
Taylor Smoke, a 2009 Saint Michael's College alumnus, grew up watching his father play sports, especially lacrosse. His early love for lacrosse became a lifelong commitment that took him to Vermont, Saint Michael's, and beyond.
In July, Smoke helped the Iroquois Nationals take third place during the Federation of International Lacrosse World Lacrosse Championships, held in Israel. Smoke's team was among 46 squads that competed, besting Australia 14-12 to grab the bronze medal. He was among nearly two dozen players selected for the Iroquois Nationals. "It (Israel) was really a beautiful place," says Smoke, who has roots in the Mohawk Nation of Akwasasne, N.Y.
This isn't the first time athletics opened the door for Smoke to travel internationally. After graduation, Smoke played lacrosse in the Australian Premier League, in Germany, and in Latvia.
Smoke's world expanded when he became a Saint Michael's student. "I really didn't see a lot of diversity until I went to school at Saint Michael's," he says. "It was great to see other people's culture. You really got to see what other people bring to the table."
Smoke—who attended Vermont Academy in Saxtons River—was no stranger to small academic settings when he arrived at the lush Saint Michael's College campus. "I liked the tightness of the community that Saint Michael's offered," says Smoke. "Some of the classes were really small, so you got a lot of attention from the professors."
Smoke majored in History and thought he would work in education. Turned out, he found another way to serve his community: "I thought I'd be a teacher, and instead, I became a cop," Smoke says.
Smoke is a father to two small children with his fiancé Chloe, who is also a recent graduate of Saint Michael's, and serves his community as a sergeant on the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department.
He's been honored for his commitment to working on traffic safety and is also a K-9 officer. Smoke's voice takes on an added gentle cadence when he speaks about his family and his K-9. "I'm allowed to keep my K-9, which is great," says Smoke. "The dog is pretty protective of the little ones."
During his years at Saint Michael's as a Division II lacrosse player, Smoke saw action in nearly 60 games when he donned the Purple Knights uniform, recording an impressive 93 ground balls as a long-stick midfielder and defender, causing 25 turnovers. The training regime can test a player's mettle. "You played fall ball and then you're in the weight room during the winter and you play in the spring," Smoke says.
Given Smoke's Native American heritage, his decision to play lacrosse comes as no surprise. The sport marries his athletic drive with his pride in his heritage. "Lacrosse is large in our area," says Smoke. "There's some cultural significance. Lacrosse is a medicine game. It's still revered by us as a medicine game and helps the community to come together."
Smoke's father, Doug, modeled commitment to family and sports for his youngsters. Doug Smoke recalled his children attending his athletic games and playing in the yard with his young family. He was also involved in coaching athletic competitions, and the elder Smoke remembers when an indoor arena was built in his hometown.
Retired from the New York Power Authority, Doug Smoke says he's hopeful his young grandchildren will follow the family tradition and hit the playing field. If they do, Doug Smoke is ready to attend and maybe even coach their games.
Doug Smoke also notes that his own parents set a supportive example to follow as they purchased athletic equipment for him as well as driving him to practices and to games.
"I absolutely got that from my parents," he says. "I carried that on to my children."