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Ricky Miezan returns to Virginia and lacrosse after Stanford football career

The former Cardinal football captain’s unorthodox athletic journey brings him back to his roots

<p>Miezan has the raw potential to make an immediate impact on Lars Tiffany’s already-elite squad.</p>

Miezan has the raw potential to make an immediate impact on Lars Tiffany’s already-elite squad.

Ricky Miezan did not go quietly from high school lacrosse.

A pouring rain cascaded down at Randolph-Macon College in May 2018. A Virginia state semifinal matchup between No. 1 ranked Paul VI (15-3) and lower-seeded Episcopal High School (11-7) waged on. Standing above the rest, Episcopal’s Miezan took control of the ball in his defensive half and galloped down the field with little resistance. 

The midfielder swept to the right, swiftly eluding his defender and beelining towards the cage. Around 10 yards out and trucking along — rain and all — Miezan dropped his stick and let it fly. 

Water exploded from the net as Paul VI’s goalie looked on helplessly. Miezan would tally three more goals in the contest — including two assists — in a wire-to-wire battle under the lights. One could not help but think about what he could do at the collegiate level. Episcopal ultimately fell in overtime, yet No. 28 shined, wondering if he would ever take the field again. 

Virginia’s men’s lacrosse will be welcoming graduate student midfielder Ricky Miezan this coming season. However, the journey back to a Virginia pitch took him across the country as he pursued an entirely different athletic career for five seasons playing Stanford football. 

At Episcopal, head lacrosse coach Scott Conklin knew immediately that he had something special on his hands. A combination of speed, size and pure athleticism popped off the page even before he could officially don a uniform.

“We did an on-campus clinic, and he flashed,” Conklin said. “He wasn’t as big as he is now, but you could tell he had the athletic ability and the skill.” 

In 2017, the midfielder, striker and sprinter decided to go out for football and immediately turned some heads. A senior season with 55 tackles and seven sacks as a linebacker made things increasingly interesting in terms of recruiting.

If there were to be one school to flip Miezan, it would be Stanford. The stars had aligned, with several linebackers in his class choosing to decommit from the Cardinal and thereby opening up a roster spot.

“I wanted to get the most out of my educational experience using athletics,” Miezan said. “And that's why when Stanford came around, I really couldn't turn it down. Because that's — in my eyes — the best school in the country, so you don't really turn it down.”

Despite an unbelievable 2018 lacrosse campaign— one in which he tallied 60 goals, 11 assists and ended the season as the Virginia Independent Schools Athletics Association Player of the Year— Miezan had made his decision in March 2018 and departed for Palo Alto shortly thereafter.

The transition to Division 1 football was not as smooth as anticipated, largely due to two season-ending injuries — the first coming after week two of his sophomore season and the second coming in the first game of his junior campaign. Miezan, however, fought through the adversity and earned a key role in his final two seasons in Palo Alto. Posting 68 tackles in 2021 and earning a spot as a captain last season, the inside linebacker ended his five-year college tenure as an All-Pac 12 honoree. 

Having accomplished plenty in his career in Palo Alto, Miezan still could not count out a return to lacrosse.

“I didn't grow up playing football, I grew up playing lacrosse,”  Miezan said. “And, you know, that's the sport that I really, really loved. And it just felt like I wanted to come back.”

The body of work from Miezan’s high school lacrosse career — including his multi-sport pedigree at Stanford — naturally threw Virginia into the mix. The former midfielder did not want to undergo a process quite like his past recruiting cycles. Instead, he knew exactly what he wanted to do — return home. Virginia lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany could not have been more excited.

“We all bring our prior experiences to new decisions and new adventures, and what an experience he has at being a captain of a football program,” Tiffany said. “Football brings such a unique approach to sports. That grit and that mandated toughness could only benefit us.” 

The multi-sport component marks Miezan as one of the few yet memorable college lacrosse players who have made the switch from football to lacrosse, or vice versa. Similar to Miezan, Maryland’s Dante Trader started at safety this past season and has joined the Terps’ lacrosse team this spring.

“There's just a lot of correlation between the two sports in my opinion, especially for linebackers,” Miezan said. “I think overall it builds your athleticism and your ability to pick up on specific schemes and learn quickly.” 

Having enrolled at Virginia for the spring semester, Miezan has had to adjust to a completely new environment and grow more comfortable with college lacrosse’s rapid pace. Virginia’s coach speaks highly of Miezan’s progress, a gradual improvement each and every day in Charlottesville. A meteoric rise could be in store.

“Anticipate a left-to-right moving chart,” Tiffany said. “We're slowly up-ticking as we get further to the right; as we go further into the preseason, that line on the graph continues to rise. And that's what we've seen from Ricky.” 

Miezan understands that the road ahead may not be as smooth as planned. This challenge — a word which Miezan has never shied away from — will only allow him to improve. 

“It's definitely going to be a challenge, it's going to be somewhat of an experiment,” Miezan said. “And I understand that, but I'm just happy to be playing again… I’m ready for it.” 

With the Cavaliers currently holding the No. 1 spot in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll, expectations for the upcoming season are sky-high after the addition of Miezan. Two scrimmages against Navy and most recently against Georgetown have witnessed the former No. 1 recruit’s return to action, tallying two goals. Not everyone can pick up a stick after five years and score twice in Division 1 ball.

Miezan still has plenty to learn, yet so much to bring to the table. By dodging downhill against often overmatched long poles and short-stick defensive midfielders, the 6-foot-2, 235 lb. transfer will open up opportunities for the rest of the offense — frequently bringing double-teams and limiting the defense’s advantage. As of right now, he is just soaking everything in. 

“My role right now is to learn and then — when the time's right — try and step in to help improve this team and, you know, leave it better than when I came,” Miezan said.

From Conklin to Tiffany, Stanford to Virginia and lacrosse to football, Miezan has a story to tell and a scary, untapped level of potential even after his five-year hiatus. On that day in 2018, Miezan could not possibly know if he would make the return back to the sport he loved. 

“I don't really think I was ready to walk away from [lacrosse], and then it ended so suddenly,” Miezan said. “So I'm definitely happy to be playing again.” 

No. 1 ranked Virginia lacrosse will take on Michigan at home Saturday, Feb. 11, in their first game of the 2023 season. Everyone — as they did at Episcopal, on the club circuit and in Palo Alto — will be looking at No. 50 at Klockner Stadium.