Marching to the family beat leads David Symmes to Army lacrosse

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David Symmes’ grandfather served in the Army during World War II. His father was in the Marines and an uncle attended the Naval Academy.

With such a family background one might assume it was a given that Symmes was going to attend a military academy. While the service of family members, especially his grandfather, influenced him as he was growing up, as a two-sport star at South County High School in Lorton, Va. he chose the direction he wanted to go. It just happens that playing lacrosse at West Point was his best option.

Symmes could have taken the partial scholarship offer to play football at William & Mary, but Army contacted him following his sophomore year of high school and his mind was soon made up.

“It was my first offer and I took it,” said the sophomore midfielder. “At the time I only had interest from two other schools, Hofstra and Navy. Once I got the offer from West Point, after visiting and seeing what it was all about and doing my research, I knew this place was for me.”

If he was alive today his grandfather would certainly approve of the decision. Harrison Symmes, who passed away in 2010 at 88, was stationed in North Africa, Sicily and Italy while serving in WWII. This was the foundation for a lengthy and distinguished career of service to the country, which included being the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan from 1967-1970.

“I don’t think he would have ever thought of me possibly attending West Point,” said Symmes. “He definitely would have been proud especially with his connection to the military. I wish I could talk to him about it. When I was younger I don’t think I appreciated his insight as much as I now do.”

Symmes’ diligence in the classroom is something that would also make his grandfather proud. After retiring from the Foreign Service, Harrison Symmes served as president of Windham College in Vermont, currently known as Landmark College. He later served as Deputy Director of the Wilderness Society.

“He was proud of us when my sister and I would come home with good grades and he always liked helping us out educationally,” said Symmes, whose sister, Rebecca, is a freshman studying theater at William & Mary.

In high school Symmes was a member of the National Honor Society (2011-13), National Latin Honor Society (2010-14) and National Society of High School Scholars (2010-14).

He also started playing the violin in the fourth grade and kept it up through sophomore year. It was during his junior and senior years that the time demands of being a two-sport star resulted in tucking the violin in its case.

Placing his musical interests aside proved to be a good choice as Symmes was a U.S. Lacrosse All-American as a senior and an option-oriented quarterback who set his school’s career mark for most total touchdowns.

Because of the system in which he played, the big boys of college football showed little more than modest interest. Most interest came from FCS programs and Division II.

“I was looked at more as an athlete or an H-back prospect by the bigger schools,” said the 6-4, 215-pounder, who was contacted by Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt. “I was not looked at as a quarterback because I was not really a pocket passer in high school. I was more of dual-threat running the option.”

An irony is that he received interest from Army, which runs the triple-option. However, they wanted him to play linebacker, safety or another spot.

Of course, Symmes chose to attend the academy to play lacrosse. He committed one week before a scheduled visit to Annapolis, which he canceled in part because he was not interested in sea-based operations.

Coach Joe Alberici, in his 11th season at the helm of the Black Knights, appreciates what Symmes brings to the program on a daily basis.

“He is a terrific young man who comes into the locker room with a smile and is ready to work,” said the former Duke assistant. “He is a guy that has done some great things to make everybody else better in practice. He is our type of person and a very likable person who cares about his team.”

Symmes heads into Saturday’s Patriot League game at Colgate Saturday on ASN having played in four of the team’s eight games while chipping in three goals. While he would like a little more playing time his overall experience with the Black Knights has been most rewarding.

“As long as I keep playing the way I am and continue to get better I can see (getting more playing time) in the near future,” he said. “I honestly could not have thought of anything better than playing lacrosse at West Point. I feel that I am in the best spot possible.”

His grandfather would likely agree.

Photos courtesy Army West Point
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.