Staats setting the tone in first season with Thunderbirds

Jan 23, 2023

Sarah Griffin I Halifax Thunderbirds

In the almost three years since he last played in an NLL game before December 2nd, 2022, a lot has changed in Randy Staats’ life. Battling back from now his third knee injury, this one was different. At age 30, there’s a lot more to life than just lacrosse for Staats. His journey back from his most recent injury put a lot in perspective for him. 

“Now that I’m older I’ve learned not just this game but health can be taken for granted,” he said. “You never know when it can be taken away from you and that’s something I’ve learned over the years but especially after this last injury.”

Staats played in his last NLL game on March 8th, 2020 with the Georgia Swarm before the pandemic shut down the 2020 season. While the league resumed in their returning season last December, Staats was sidelined another year as he recovered from a torn ACL sustained in June 2021. 

Traded to Panther City LC prior to the start of the 2021 season, the hope was for Staats to eventually take on the role as the playmaker of the young club’s offence once he was fully healthy. 

Staats was drafted in 2015 as the sixth overall pick in the NLL Draft, playing for the Swarm alongside Lyle Thompson for his first number of years in the NLL. With such young, pure offensive talent on the Swarm, it was Staats who earned Rookie of the Year in 2016. He played in 18 games producing 95 points, setting the rookie point record. 

Staats recorded a career-high 96 points in the 2019 season. Consistently one of the best of the best year in and year out since he joined the league, still, he was never the “top dog” in Georgia. While of course, that’s nothing he nor his teammates concerned themselves with, the excitement surrounding a fresh start for Staats in Texas was high.

Then again, maybe whoever came up with the saying “everything happens for a reason,” was onto something. 

Staats never played a game for Panther City in 2021-2022. He didn’t take the floor in full health until June 2022 with the Six Nation Chiefs in Major Series Lacrosse. There, he played alongside his cousin and longtime teammate over the years, Cody Jamieson, captain of the Thunderbirds. 

“He [Randy] has always been a bigger guy,” said Jamieson. “When we were younger, we used to call him ‘string bean’ but over the years, he’s really gained a lot of muscle and turned into this physical specimen. With his injuries over the years, he’s really learned how to take care of his body and matured as a lacrosse player.”

“He’s played lacrosse his entire life so I think missing the game and having that time away from it recently put a lot into perspective for him.”

Playing the game that both means so much to them together since they were little, Jamieson has had a front-row seat to Staats’ career from the start.

“I think a lot of people forgot about him and forgot how good he is in that time he was away from the game these last few years,” Jamieson remarked. “They wrote him off and he’s making people give their heads a shake for that.”

As teammates, cousins, and friends, Jamieson also knows the man outside of lacrosse just as well. So when the news broke this past August that Halifax made a blockbuster trade with Panther City to acquire Staats, needless to say, the captain was thrilled to have him on board.

On December 2nd, 2022, Staats put on a Halifax uniform for the first time and took to the floor for the first time in 1,000 days. Seemingly without missing a beat, he recorded seven points in his return, with one goal and six assists. 

“He’s one of the best lacrosse players in the world,” said Jamieson. “Having his presence just makes everyone else feel more comfortable out there; we know that he can score goals, he can shoot, he’s one of the best passers in the league, but he’s also one of the best guys at setting picks in the league. He does it all for us, and he does it unselfishly.”

Since his return, Staats now leads the league in points with 33 in just four games played. His impact on this Thunderbirds team is evident not just on the stats sheet, but in the locker room as well.

“His competitive nature and competitive spirit definitely has helped change the culture of our team. He’s a fun guy to be around in the locker room, loves to laugh – he can make a joke but he can also take one which is huge – but when game time comes, his intensity and competitive spirit come out, and that helps set the tone for us.” 

While lacrosse remains an important part of his life, at the end of the day, there’s nothing Staats values more than family. 

Jamieson said if there’s one thing he looks up to the most about Staats, it’s his dedication as a father and husband.

“Over the years seeing him grow as a father and the dedication he puts to his family and being the best father he can be in addition to everything else he does, it just goes to show he can really do it all.”

The Staats family welcomed twin boys in November along with their two daughters. 

“Being a dad has helped me in every aspect of my life,” said Staats. “It’s difficult at times, yeah, it’s chaotic, but it’s just about finding that balance. It’s a cool thing when my kids get to see me play or see me on TV. My daughter went to the recent game in Buffalo and for her to have that experience, it’s almost indescribable.” 

A weapon on and off the floor, Staats is one of the best of the best – point blank, period.

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