For inspiration or example, Vaughn Harris wasn’t required to stray too far afield.
Just down the hall. In front of the TV set. At the breakfast table. Or out on a floor somewhere, messing around, toting a lacrosse stick.
“My brother, Roger Vyse,’’ says the Calgary Roughnecks’ second-round draft pick, “is the person I’ve always looked up to.
“He’s been my role model. He showed me what was possible. He showed me that you can make your dreams come true.
“He went to school, played pro lacrosse with Buffalo (Bandits).
“He’s a big reason I’m here today.”
It’s Day One of Calgary Roughnecks training camp, fitness testing out at WinSport and the beginning of an audition Vaughn Harris has waited most of his life for.
Naturally, as he prepared to head west from Ontario, big brother Roger wasn’t the least bit shy in delivering a pep talk.
“He just told me ‘It’s lacrosse. Don’t change. They chose you for a reason.’ I’ve been doing this my whole life.
“He always told me I could do it. He’s always been there for me, motivation-wise.
“He’s really proud of me.”
When Vyse graduated to the pro level and the National Lacrosse League, with the Bandits, Harris and the rest of the family would make the 130-kilometre drive from home, Six Nations, Ont. – the largest First Nations reserve in Canada – to western New York to watch his older brother play.
With a decade age-difference between them, there’s been a scarcity of advice to be handed down.
“He’d always be on me to be out there running and to have a stick in my hand,’’ recalls Harris. “All the time.
“And I did. Ever since I was born I had a stick in my hand … well not literally ‘ever since I was born’. But ever since I was a baby. It’s part of our culture.
“And I was always a bit of a chunker so he’d always bug me about getting in shape. That gave me more motivation to be in the gym.
“He always pushed me. But he wanted me to improve. He wanted me to be the best player I possibly could.”
The big night for Harris arrived Sept. 26th at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ont., at the 2016 NLL Draft.
Projected to be a top-end selection, the two-time Mann Cup winner from the Six Nations Chiefs of the Major Series Lacrosse League, had to languish in seat an awful lot longer than he, or anyone else, had foreseen.
“I was getting a bit, uh … concerned,’’ he admits. “Reading the stuff on the internet, they all seemed to have me Top 10.
“Then all of a sudden they’re into the second round and I’m kinda like ‘Hello …? Did everybody forget I’m here?’ But finally, I heard my name and … it’s a feeling you really can’t explain.
“Something you’ve wanted to hear your whole life and then to put on an NLL jersey, just awesome.”
Roughnecks’ GM Mike Board was also taken aback when his second selection rolled around and Harris remained unclaimed.
“It’s almost like you’d put him out of your head,’’ laughs Board, “Because I never thought he’d be there at 15. Then, surprise, he is still there, you blink, and kinda go ‘Wow!’ It was the easiest thing I wrote on a piece of paper all day: Vaughn Harris.
“OK, this is a no-brainer.
“But a real athletic kid who brings diversified skills. He can play offence, he can play defence. Takes face-offs.
“When I watched him play in the summer – and it’s not like you see him play all the time – he’s always doing something that you notice.”
As the September draft moved along, not only the ‘Necks were surprised. Just in case, the Rochester Knighthawks swung a deal with Buffalo to move up in the pecking order, to No. 16, with an eye to adding Harris.
“They were thinking we’d pass on him, his being from Six Nations, out that way,’’ says Calgary coach Curt Malawsky.
“But we were just sitting, waiting, waiting.
“We knew what we got. We’d watched him all through the Mann Cup. He’s a player that, now that we’re dressing 17 guys in this league, can help in a lot of ways.
“For a while, we went away from that multi-faceted player to a purely offensive guy.
“Now with that extra body, it opens the door. He’s going to push our two draw guys here in camp. Knowing that he can pick up some slack if someone drops off in the offensive end or help with the transition at the back end.”
Malawsky plans on starting Harris out on the back end, on defence, at this camp, to learn systems.
“We’re definitely excited,’’ he adds, “to see what he can do at this level.”
There’s a decidedly youthful tinge to this edition of the Calgary Roughnecks’ as they embark on the 2017 campaign.
Vaughn Harris plans on being part of the way forward to another Champions Cup for southern Alberta.
Seven springtimes have passed since the ‘Necks last held NLL sway.
Back to 2009.
Only a year before that, Roger Vyse was part of a Buffalo crew that laid claim to the title, edging past the Portland LumberJax 14-13 on their home floor, the-then HSBC Arena (now KeyBank Center).
Little brother was among 18,000 pro-Bandits patrons in the stands that championship evening of May 17th.
“It was such a special feeling, to see him hoist that Cup,’’ says Harris, eight and a half years later.
“He’d worked so hard to get there.
“So to see him so happy, so proud, made me happy and proud.
“That night, that experience, it’s something I’d always wanted for him.
“And it’s something I’d like to do in my lifetime, too.”