For many, family plays an unmatched role in influencing major life decisions. For instance, one may choose to attend Marist College due to a lineage of family members coming through the institution. In the case of redshirt junior linebacker Mike Arrington, it was his family that ultimately played a pivotal role in his decision to play football.
When asked about who inspired him to play the game, Mike chuckled, then gave a two-word response, “Definitely LaVar.”
If you’re a football nerd, you could probably start to connect the dots.
Mike’s uncle is none other than newly-minted College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former second overall pick and Washington football favorite, LaVar Arrington. After a stellar college football career at Penn State, where he won numerous awards and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Arrington broke out onto the pro scene, making three straight Pro Bowls (2001-2003) and two Second-Team All-Pro selections (2001 and 2003).
Unfortunately, knee and achilles injuries cut his career short, but he left a mark on the NFL and his nephew. When you put the two relatives side-by-side, you can see the similarities: other than their shared last name, both are linebackers who play fast and with a force to their game.
Mike Arrington was a late bloomer to the game of football, as he began playing in sixth grade for local teams around Virginia. His decision to play was partially based on the fact that he loved watching LaVar’s highlights on YouTube. He admired the physical force his uncle brought to the game, and he wanted to try it out for himself.
“While I wasn’t, and still am not, the greatest tackler, I’ve always felt like my football instincts were on the higher end of the scale,” Mike Arrington said. “I was able to progress through multiple levels of football with that on my back.”
Mike believes that this ability to process what’s happening on the field definitely comes from the bloodline. The familial connection has remained a constant, as Mike has had the support of Uncle LaVar throughout his career. Whether it be at family gatherings, over the phone, or even on social media, LaVar always helps out his nephew when he asks for a favor.
“If I send him some of my film,” Mike Arrington explained, “he always watches it all the way through and comes back to me with something new for me to work on.”
While his advice is usually different each time, there is one common theme that Mike takes to heart – “keep working.” It may sound simple, but Mike knows that his uncle is being serious, and he doesn’t take it lightly.
With the help of his coaches and LaVar’s advice, Arrington has improved every year since he arrived at Poughkeepsie as a true freshman in 2018. Mike received scarce playing time early on, although he did appear in some shape or fashion in 10 games during the 2019 season.
After not playing in an organized game in two years because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mike was named a captain of the team prior to the start of the 2021 season. Mike described feeling “proud and honored” when he got word of receiving this title from the team, and that he didn’t want to let his teammates down this season. Spoiler alert – he didn’t.
In 2021, Arrington led the team with five sacks and was second on the team with 81 total tackles, only trailing First Team All-PFL linebacker Jayden Johnson. As for himself, Arrington made the Second-Team All-PFL list. He doesn’t feel any resentment toward the award voters, noting that he has “many things” he wants to improve on to be a better player on the field, giving himself a final grade of a B+ for his performance this season.
The most notable aspect he wants to improve on, which LaVar has pointed out, is his tackling. He specifically cited the Red Foxes’ 27-7 loss against St. Thomas (MN) as his worst game of the season because of his missed tackles. In that game, PFL Offensive Freshman of the Year, Hope Adebayo, ran all over the Foxes for 191 yards, helping sustain drives for his Tommies.
“I missed way too many tackles this year. They often led to big plays for the other team,” Arrington noted, while also stating his belief that focusing on his tackling this offseason would help to prevent that from happening again.
Mike has already decided he’ll return for the Red Foxes next season, which would be his redshirt senior season. He has one more year of eligibility beyond that because of the NCAA’s COVID rules if he so chooses. Beyond that, it’s all up in the air.
“The thought of playing in the NFL, following in my uncle’s footsteps, would be incredible,” Arrington explained. “I know I have a longshot of making it so it isn’t necessarily my end goal. Marist has done a great job in terms of shaping me for a life beyond football, so I know that I’ll be prepared for any other challenge that comes my way other than football. It isn’t the end all be all.”
Even if he doesn’t make it to the NFL, LaVar is still openly proud of his nephew. When Mike posted his 2021 season highlights on Twitter, LaVar retweeted it so his 77.6 thousand followers could see his nephew in action.
When big accounts post highlights of LaVar, Mike returns the favor and retweets his uncle’s highlights, even if he doesn’t have quite the same following that his uncle does – yet.
In the remaining time that Mike has left as a Red Fox, he wants to continue doing right by his family name. He wants to show that the Arringtons play hard and hit tough in football, but also lead people and live successful lives outside of the game. He knows it will be a tough journey, but he has his family, including LaVar, in his corner to back him up and give him advice every step of the way.
Edited by Luke Sassa and Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Marist Athletics