Somehow in the midst of the Duke victory scrum, Syosset High alum Eddie Loftus was tossed right into the goal. The Blue Devils had just beaten Notre Dame Monday in overtime, 6-5, for the school's first national championship.
For a freshman who saw little playing time this season, basking in the net where the winning goal was scored was Loftus' signature moment.
Until he found his father.
"I came up to him and gave him a huge hug and he looked at me and said, 'I just don't know what to say right now.' He was just in shock. He was beyond happy," Loftus says of father Brian. "I remember a few years ago I was sitting in my living room and watching him on Good Morning America. And seeing him go from that to the biggest smile in the world on his face, it gave me a great feeling."
"That," as many know, was the Duke lacrosse scandal of 2006, when a woman claimed she was raped by team members at an off-campus party. Brian Loftus' oldest son, Daniel, and middle son Chris were on the team at the time, and the exasperated father was interviewed by the news program. While they were never charged with a crime in which three teammates were later exonerated, the scrutiny extended all the way up to Long Island.
"Eddie was at home," Brian Loftus says. "I remember when he'd go to school and people would ask him, 'Did your brothers really rape some girl or something?' And he had to put up with this. But as a family we held tight."
For many the headlines would be all the motivation necessary to play collegiate lacrosse elsewhere. But Eddie Loftus answers the question about looking at other schools with authority.
"Not for a second," he says. "Everything that happened, in '06, it's tough, and that's life. But my brothers made their best friends for the rest of their lives [at Duke]. The people are great. The coaching staff is awesome. It's just a good environment to be in."
Loftus' playing time was sparse, but when he got in he made the most of it. He scored all six of his goals this season in one game, a 19-8 win over Presbyterian late in the regular season.
His lack of on-field action, he says, makes him no less a champion because he feels--literally--where he contributed.
"I knew coming in I wasn't going to play a lot as a freshman, and maybe as a sophomore," Loftus says. "I'm playing behind three of the best attackman in the country. But every day in practice, I would go up against our best defenders. They beat on my arms, they'd rough me up, but I knew by Saturday I was making them better for our next game."
These days everybody in the Loftus family is doing pretty well. Daniel is the head coach at Jupiter High School in Florida. Chris, who made it to the championship game to see his brother, works on Wall Street. Brian, a retired Fire Department of New York captain, can now go to just about all his son's games. The only one he missed was, you guessed it, the Presbyterian game. But he can live with it because he was visiting daughter Alexandra, who was studying abroad.
Brian Loftus says he and wife Barbara have come full-circle after seeing the best and worst of human nature.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I found out who your friends were and who your friends weren't," he says. "There's people that I probably don't talk to, who questioned the integrity of my kids."
Fortunately, the way things have turned out he has no time for the negative voices.
"Some days," Brian says, "I have to pinch myself, that's how good life is."