CANTON — Evan Lapice has been with the St. Lawrence University football program for only one season, and he missed most of that with a leg injury.
But when the players voted for a defensive captain for this season, Lapice, a junior who spent his first season playing for Merrimack, earned the squad’s vote.
“I was very surprised,” said Lapice, a strong safety who is 5-foot-5, 170 pounds. “I stayed with the team (last year), went to every practice. I was very surprised when I got the news from coach (Mark Raymond).”
Said Raymond, “Evan is a very bright kid. He has a lot of confidence. He’s a lead-by-example kid and the teammates really respect him.”
Lapice began his sophomore season as the starter at strong safety, but suffered a leg injury in the opening game against Coast Guard. He saw limited time in later games against Union, SUNY Morrisville, and Rensselaer, but finished with just 20 tackles.
But Lapice did not sit around feeling sorry for himself while injured. Instead the actions he took helped lead to his teammates making him one of the team’s two captains, along with senior quarterback Mike Lefflbine.
“He was very encouraging to the young players and the guys who were taking his spot,” Raymond said. “When you look back at it, he played games with a broken leg. That’s pretty tough character right there.”
Lapice, a native of Freeport, played in 10 games as a freshman at Division I FCS school Merrimack, finishing with 18 tackles.
But during the offseason after his freshman year he got together with former high school teammates Leondre Simmon and Maurice Irby, who both play for SLU, and heard them talk about their experiences in Canton. He decided to transfer.
“When I was at Merrimack the team wasn’t really a family, it wasn’t close-knit,” Lapice said. “(Simmon and Irby) told me that all the (SLU) coaches care about the players and I knew SLU’s academics was better. It’s not too big a difference (in the game). The size is different, but we are all putting in the same amount of hours. In Division I you may get more TV time.”
Lapice made an immediate impact for the Saints. He’s not physically imposing, but he loves to hit and showed flashes last season of what SLU could expect from a healthy Lapice this season.
“(SLU) was pretty cool,” Lapice said. “The first game was a home game and we actually won and got to ring the (victory) bell. That was very exciting. It was a cool environment.”
One thing Lapice brings to the Saints is great intelligence on the field. Lapice said he’d like to work in law enforcement someday, perhaps with the FBI.
“He has full command of the defense,” Raymond said. “He’s very well-prepared. He knows what offensively (opponents) are trying to do to us. He can get people lined up in the right positions.”
Said Lapice, “I’m kind of like the quarterback of the defense. I’m standing in the back and telling people what to do. I like hitting people, to be honest, that’s why I’m on the defensive side of the ball.”
Said Raymond, “He’s a physical kid. He’s not very tall, but he’s very strong and he has a great nose for the ball. A big hit gets him juiced up. He plays with great leverage and a lot of passion and effort. It’s a challenge for him against a couple (tall) receivers, but he’s competitive and he’s not going to back down to anybody.”
As a junior, Lapice is the rare college football player at SLU who will likely get to be a team captain for two straight years, which is just fine with Raymond.
“He’s a guy we can count on,” Raymond said. “He’s going to be here and lead. He’s another coach on the field.”
Said Lapice, “Since they gave me this role that means they put the trust in me that I will lead the team and do my job and keep the team going forward.”
To see a video interview with Saints coach Mark Raymond on the upcoming season visit: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20140829/BLOGS11/140828582