The Georgia Swarm’s Lyle Thompson is vocal regarding recognition of Native American culture in society and sports, but he also boasts a diverse resume.
He’s the reigning National Lacrosse League MVP, the first-ever back-to-back male Tewaraaton Award recipient — given annually to the top American college lacrosse player — he’s been the No. 1 overall pick in two different professional lacrosse leagues, and he’s an accomplished graphic designer.
Thompson displayed his designs and artwork at “The Art of Sport” art show at the Spare Time Gallery inside the Miami Ad School on Thursday in Atlanta.
The show featured personal artwork from athletes on Atlanta’s top professional sports franchises — the Falcons, Hawks, Braves and Atlanta United — and the creative companies that work with them.
Thompson has always had a passion for drawing, enough to initially decided to major in art at the University of Albany. Thompson changed his major midway through his collegiate career after his first child was born. Art didn’t seem to be lucrative enough for a young father to support his growing family. But Thompson didn’t give up drawing, although it’s harder to find time between training for a professional lacrosse career and parenthood.
“My whole life I’ve always been an artist,” Thompson said. “I’m kind of learning. I’m not super familiar with graphic design, I get a lot of help with it.
“There are no shortcuts to art, you have to take your time. For me, I had two kids, going on my third. I wanted to be with my wife and my kids, and then I had lacrosse. I wasn’t forced, but it was the easiest route.”
Drawing was still a hobby for Thompson, who said he drew tattoos for friends before he started using his skill to market his own business.
When Thompson’s professional career started taking off, he and his brothers — also accomplished lacrosse players from upstate New York — formed their own lacrosse apparel brand, Thompson Brothers Lacrosse. Who better to design the logo than Lyle Thompson himself? His inspiration was drawn from their last initial infused with their signature braids that dangle from the back of their helmets. The braid is a traditional Native American hairstyle.
Thompson’s art is profoundly influenced by his traditional upbringing on the Onondaga Nation reservation.
“That’s what I connect to,” Thompson said. “If you connect to something, that’s where I start. I like to draw things that connect me to my culture and show who you are.”
Thompson partnered with Nike to inspire aspects of the design the N7 sneaker collection and an all-surface lacrosse cleat Alpha Huarache 6 LE. Thompson, who has an interest in collecting shoes, jumped at the opportunity to design his own sneaker with his family’s brand of Native American pride built into the design.
“Nike takes control of the main aspects of things, bringing it to life,” Thompson said. “With our latest shoe, I thought it was cool because I got to design the shoe and kind of innovate with them. For me, I came up with the design and they brought it to life.”