Player Spotlight

Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.

Ryan Dilks of the Saskatchewan Rush in the PLPA Player Spotlight By Stephen Stamp

Question You're from Hamilton, played Jr B there for a couple of years then three years with the Arrows. Did Six Nations draft you and you came up that way.

Nope. I never got drafted in Jr A. Six Nations and Hamilton just had a friendly affiliation back then. I still think they do, I'm not too sure. So I played two years in Hamilton Jr B and then they asked me to come and try out. I played with the Arrows ever since.

Question And you got into four games in the year before you were with them full time.

Yeah, I was an AP player. It was pretty cool playing with Cody Jamieson and all those guys. It was a pretty big deal for me. It was a whole new experience. It was a pretty big jump going from Jr B to Jr A.

Question When did you start playing the game?

I think I started when I was about six or seven. I tried a year of soccer, but no contact. It wasn't working for me. Tee ball was too slow. My dad used to play lacrosse back in the day and he thought it'd be interesting so he said, “Here you go, son, here's a stick. Go and hit people with it.” I fell in love.

Question Obviously it worked out. I guess it would be safe to say you were a bit of a late bloomer. Like you said, you weren't drafted and then you get into it and you decided to go into the 2010 NLL draft rather than waiting until you were done junior. What went into that decision?
Answer Definitely back then I was still trying to live the Canadian hockey dream. Hockey was dominant for me and lacrosse was just something I loved to do in the summer. It got to a point where I realized hockey wasn't taking me anywhere and people were telling me I might have a chance in lacrosse. My coach asked if I was entering the NLL draft this year and I said I didn't know if I was eligible. He said, yeah, you can. You never know. I asked him if it cost any money and he said no so I said, sure, I'll throw my name in there. It worked out. I didn't even watch the draft. I was in a hockey meeting with my team. I watched the first couple of rounds then we had to go into the meeting. In the middle of the meeting I remember my phone just going off. It was vibrating, going off. I couldn't check it cause I was in this meeting. Finally, I just had to check it and there was a whole bunch of congrats. I checked and I'd been drafted 50th overall. It was a pretty cool feeling.

Question You went and played a season in Boston. What was that season like given that it was the last one for the Blazers. They were a pretty good team; it wasn't on the floor that the problems were.

Yeah, exactly. It was a cool experience for me. I'd never been to Boston and just the whole NLL was new to me. Flying in and out of Boston every weekend and I saw the city. We had a talented group of guys. We had a good team. That was the year the Big 3 was [Dan] Dawson, Shooter (Josh Sanderson) and Casey Powell. So to come on to that team and just see the leadership and the talent was pretty cool. Unfortunately it didn't work out but that's just the NLL. You can't do anything about it, just worry about your part.

Question You must have learned almost as much when you got to practice against those three as when you were playing games.
Answer Oh, for sure. Dan Dawson is a huge leader. He really helped me, taught me stuff like how to act and how to be a professional. Playing with him and those guys that I said, and [Anthony] Cosmo. It really helped my game and brought me where I am today.

Question Now, you grew up in Hamilton, you played in Kitchener-Waterloo, you lived and played in Victoria, you were in Boston for a year, you've been in Edmonton, in Saskatoon, you're spending the summer in Edmonton playing for the St. Albert Miners. Where do you consider home now?
Answer When you put it like that I sound like a suitcase, holy smokes. I consider Edmonton home now. That was one of the problems. There was a good three/four years there where I was living in Edmonton, living in Victoria then going back to Hamilton. I was packing my life up like three times a year, living in a team house. It was fun. I'd recommend it to every young player out there, but you've got to grow up. You get tired of packing your subpar clothes into that weak little suitcase every year. You've got to settle down. I've settled down here in Edmonton and I'm happy about it. It's a great city and it just happens that we're hosting the Presidents Cup this year and I'm hoping to get another ring out of it.

Question Obviously tough to top last year when you get the Champions cup then a Mann Cup and a world championship all in one season, but you've got a chance to add a different trophy this year.

For sure. Obviously, 2015 will be a year I'll never forget and I don't think I'll ever top that. But I saw a chance here in Edmonton and it's kind of worked out that the year I wanted to stay is the year St. Alberts is hosting the Presidents. We've got a great team and they wanted me to play. I said of course. I don't want this streak to end. Winning is too fun.

Question You're trained as a firefighter. Are you complete in your training?
Answer I did the school down in Texas. I've still got to shape up the resume, do a couple of first aid things. I'm pretty close to having the resume I wanted and then start applying. I've got some good guys on the team who are firefighters so they're helping me prepare what to say and what to do. Hopefully in the next couple of years I can get on somewhere, but I didn't want to grow up too fast.

Question What was it that made you want to settle in Edmonton?
Answer I'm going to be honest. I might have met a girl here last season and love is a powerful thing. I might soak a fine for that, but I'll get some brownie points back home.It's all a balancing act. You've got to keep the dressing room happy and the old lady happy at the same time.

Question When you were drafted by the Edmonton Rush in the Boston dispersal draft, they really hadn't every been a competitive team in their fairly short existence but the seeds of the championship team were being sewn. They brought in you and Kyle Rubisch in the dispersal draft; Chris Corbeil, Aaron Bold and Jeff Cornwall in trades and then the team really turned the corner with the additions of Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh, Robert Church, Curtis Knight. But how promising did things look when you arrived? Because the success wasn't there yet; it was just about to happen.
Answer Right. One, I was just happy to be picked up in the dispersal draft. I was pretty thrilled just to be selected and happy to be there. I remember that first year, it wasn't there yet but you could see [Derek] Keenan had a direction. He was slowly trying to shape his team how he wanted it. It's funny now you look back how big those little moves he made were. It's funny how it all worked out. The guy's a mastermind GM. He got his team. It's an unbelievable team now. I'm so happy to be a part of it. It's a lot of fun.

Question I know one big thing they stress is family. It seems like a lot of the successful teams have that, it's about more than just lacrosse, it's about character and attitude and everyone fitting together.
Answer Exactly. You can go around to every guy in the room and there's not one guy who's a bad character and doesn't fit in. Every single guy he brought in, I strongly believe one of the reasons we're so successful, is our chemistry is so strong with each other because it's all good people. We all understand each other, we all have fun and we know when to get serious. We have great leaders and now you've seen the result: three or four winning seasons and a couple of championships.

Question Individually, your first few years in the league, as a rookie in Boston you don't get a ton of attention then you come to Edmonton and there's Rubisch and Corbeil and Brett Mydske and Jeremy Thompson, a lot of guys who are getting some attention. But now you're starting to get recognized as one of the best in the game. You're a co-winner of the IL Indoor defender of the year, you're a finalist for the NLL award. Do you feel like things have changed in terms of how people are playing against you or how people are seeing you on the floor? Do you feel like your game has evolved and you've become better or is it just people are noticing what you do?
Answer Jr B to Jr A is a big step. Jr A to the NLL is an even bigger step. You're playing against men now. It's a pretty serious step. That where you see the big players, like Kyle Rubisch comes into the league and dominates already and that's why he's probably the greatest defender in the game. Guys like me, it took a few years to get my feet wet and understand the game and then I fell into Keenan's system and I fell in love with that system. It just fit me right, the pressure D. As the years go by, you start to get more confident. When you've got guys like Rubes and Corbs and [Mydske] working the two-man game with you, you start to get really confident. That's how you can get on people's hands; when you know you've got these guys helping you underneath it really allows you to do what you want to do like I am now. I love pressuring guys and it's helping me lots.

Question Part of your success as you're talking about it is understanding what kind of defender you are. You're not going to be a huge guy who just knocks people over like Kyle Rubisch, but you're very quick and you've got great feet. The forwards that I talk to, when I ask who are the toughest guys to play against, so many of them mention you because they say they just can't get away from you. Obviously, that's your style. Like you said, be on hands, matching feet and just being there all the time.
Answer Yeah, that's what I try and do. I'm not going to bully John Grant, Jr. I don't have the size. I've got to play to my strengths and that's just being a little pest out there, just getting on hands and wait for my opportunity to try to strip them or pick off a pass and just hope for the best, cross my fingers.

Question It worked out pretty well this year; you led the league in caused turnovers. Pretty big jump in your numbers, going from a high of 33 the previous year to 51 and leading the league. Is there something specific that clicked for you this year? Is it partly a matter of, you're knocking the ball away and they happen to be going to people where they can get them and it's actually a turnover? Some kind of combination?
Answer I'm not sure. I wish I could say I knew what I did differently.

Question It'd be nice to get 50 again next year, right?
Answer I don't know, that might be tough. I hope so. But like I said, it's just having the confidence, playing our system, being able to get out there...Just getting on guys hands, a couple of bounces go your way here and there and I guess “there's a CTO, there's a CTO.” I learned a lot, I learned so much just watching Kyle Rubisch play. I didn't know about that one-handed strip he always does from the top. I literally have just been working on it, working on it and now I've completely stolen that move from him and here I am.

Question Is he bitter that you beat him this year in CTOs, because he'd been the king for several years?
Answer Honestly, no offence to some of the NLL stat guys, but he could have easily had up in the 40s, 50s. A couple of bounces didn't go his way this year but he still absolutely dominated and he was still just someone you did not want to match up with and I'm just happy he's on our team.

Question You also actually had your highest scoring season in the NLL. You had five goals, which ties your rookie mark, and 13 assists, which was your most. They're not huge numbers but it looked like you were taking a few more opportunities to get up the floor.
Answer Yeah, that's what Keenan wants. He wants us to push the ball. He was always in my ear all year, Get up there, get your feet north and start creating transition. Then I did the smart play, usually passed it to the O guy coming out the door and a bunch of them went in this year. It was nice to get rewarded with some apples and a few goals here and there, so it was fun.

Question For people who follow the National Lacrosse League on Twitter and things, it's pretty hard not to notice Papa Dilks making the odd appearance. Actually more than the odd appearance, he's a pretty regular contributor. What's his role been like?
Answer Papa Dilks, a lot of people think he's my dad but he's actually my grandpa, my dad's dad. He's 83 or 84 now and just loves the internet. Discovered the internet not too long ago and he fell in love. You saw him at the start when he first got Twitter, Stamper, it was a battle to get him to understand. It was long overdue and now he's just been an unbelievable role model for me. He's always there, he's driving to Rochester, he's always there testing me and he's one of the best grandpas a guy could ask for. It means a lot. If a game's on TSN, he's just thrilled. I had to teach him how to hook up the laptop to the TV and that was a process, too.

Question My mother's 83 and I'm still trying to get her to text, so I understand.
Answer It's not easy. It's tough to explain, but he's doing pretty well.

Question You're in the summer, you've got a little time before the NLL season gets going again, What do you do to keep yourself ready to play basically all year round?
Answer Playing Sr B here definitely helps. It's pretty busy. We practice a couple of times a week, a couple of games a week. So I'm playing lacrosse four nights a week here and then the nights I'm not playing, you're in the gym trying to work on your fitness and trying to gain some weight. The off-season's too long for the NLL. I miss the boys and I can't wait for November.

PLPA Correspondent

Stephen Stamp is the co-editor of IL Indoor and was the Tom Borrelli Award winner as the National Lacrosse League's Media Person of the Year in 2013. He also does play by play and/or colour commentary for the Toronto Rock, Major Series Lacrosse, the Canadian Lacrosse League and in 2015 called 27 games at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. He hosts Boxla Beat, the leading lacrosse podcast, on NLL Radio.

Previous Spotlights