Philadelphia Waterdogs attackman Michael Sowers

Waterdogs star Michael Sowers is defined by his Philadelphia roots

By Wyatt Miller | Jun 14, 2024

Michael Sowers refused to leave Spark Field when his junior lacrosse season ended in heartbreak. He sat there, staring at the scoreboard that read Conestoga 10, Upper Dublin 9. 

He remained planted on the turf that was built for his youth football program years prior so long that the cleaning crew came out. It was Stefon Diggs-esque, but this was well before the Buffalo Bills receiver made that infamous choice to watch the Chiefs’ confetti fall on their playoff victory celebration. Eventually, Sowers’ dad and head coach, David Sowers, came up to him and asked if he was alright.

“This won’t happen again,” was all the younger Sowers said. 

Unlike Diggs, Sowers made good on that promise. In his senior season, Upper Dublin won the 2016 district title in a blowout, and it was especially meaningful for Sowers because of what surrounded that moment. He achieved his ultimate high school goal on the field that was essentially created for them, with his dad coaching, his brother Nick playing defense and a host of lifelong friends at his side. 

At some point in the thrills of victory, all three Sowers’ embraced. They had finally done it. David said putting the medal around the necks of his two sons, along with countless young men he’d coached since they were kids, was unforgettable. 

David and Michael Sowers (photo from David Sowers)
David and Michael Sowers (photo from David Sowers)

Ever since he was young, Michael Sowers has been a community-minded family man. He supported his brothers at all their games, has had the same core friend group since he was seven years old and drives 45 minutes from Philadelphia to Upper Dublin, Pa., on weekends to watch Eagles games with his family. Every spare second was, and still is, filled with sports, whether it’s lacrosse, football or basketball. Still, Sowers has always cared more about the people he’s with than the things they’re doing. 

Fittingly, Sowers will have a massive congregation of around 100 friends and family at Villanova Stadium to watch the Philadelphia Waterdogs’ Homecoming Weekend.

“Michael says it to this day, he learned in his early years it was cool for him to score a goal, but he really liked the joy of his friends when they scored goals,” David said. “So he just took that to heart and was just like, ‘I’m going to get as many of them to score goals every game as I can.’”

That all started at seven years old when David helped bring back the youth football program in Upper Dublin. After practice one day, he brought out a trash can filled with lacrosse sticks and told the kids to try getting the ball past the other team to each side. They were hooked. From that point on, a lot of them started playing lacrosse as well as basketball and football. 

It didn’t take long for David to realize Michael’s accelerated talent and commitment to his craft. One day, as he was walking around the house, David stopped to look out his back window. Michael was running at a tree in their backyard to practice spin moves on it over and over again. 

At that point, he remembered thinking, “OK, this is something different.” Later on, Sowers used the same tree to practice split dodges with a lacrosse stick in his hands. 

Michael Sowers at Upper Dublin High School (photo from David Sowers)
Michael Sowers at Upper Dublin High School (photo from David Sowers)

Up until middle school, Sowers was a run-first quarterback on his football teams and dominated with his shiftiness. He moved to receiver in sixth grade because the position better suited his height.

When practices ended, all his friends would often go back to the Sowers house, where they would play mini lacrosse for as long as the sun permitted. So, David put up lights in the yard, allowing them to carry on into the night. 

“Growing up, my whole life was rooted around sports,” Sowers said. 

Once Sowers’ youngest brother, Andrew, was old enough, the three siblings would play 2-on-2 mini lacrosse with their neighbor. Nick is two years younger, and Andrew is five years behind Michael. Neither had the innate skill their oldest brother possesses, but Sowers never flaunted it. In fact, Nick said they would play until he “kind of won,” but then the competitive fire took over, and Michael could never end on a loss. Andrew said, to this day, they can’t finish a one-on-one basketball game without a fight or argument.

Sowers was clearly different, but he never wanted his younger siblings to be known as “Michael Sowers’ brother” and made an active effort to avoid that. 

“He would always make us feel included,” Nick said. “He would have his friends over and they would be doing stuff and he would always include us. It wasn’t like we were on the sidelines or anything like that. We were always allowed to do what he was doing.”

As they grew up, so did their relationships. Sowers is always there for his brothers, and they go to him for everything from funny lacrosse memes to serious life advice. Nick said even though Michael gets about as many texts in a day as he would get in a year, the Waterdogs star always has time for family. 

“All throughout high school, I was like 5-foot-1 and I struggled with that,” Andrew said. “But I’ve definitely matured and he helped me so much through that process, always having my back.”

That family mindset was forged by his grandparents as much as his parents, David and Elizabeth. Both sets of grandparents were so invested they would show up to most practices as well as the games. People thought they were either crazy or lost. But that was the level of loyalty and support Sowers grew up with, so when it was his turn to pay that forward, he didn’t disappoint.

The Sowers brothers (photo from David Sowers)
The Sowers brothers (photo from David Sowers)

In that fateful senior year, Sowers had an unfortunate ending to his football career. Lingering health issues, ones he’d dealt with his whole life, forced him to miss the end of the season while his team won a district championship. But during the title game, a moment David had been preparing them for since they first put on pads, he was all smiles. 

According to his close friend and former quarterback, Ryan Stover, Sowers was energized and engaged from the jump. He was getting everyone locked in and helping his dad with schemes, supporting the team the only way he could because that’s what his family always did for him.

The bonds he holds with day-one friends are similar to family, and most of them played high-level college sports. Stover played quarterback at Towson. Jack Rapine played defense at Johns Hopkins before spending some time in the PLL with the Archers. Henry Winebrake was a linebacker at the University of Chicago. Nick Vernacchio (a midfielder for Saint Joseph’s lacrosse), Ben Abel, Jimmy Gallagher and Michael Gillen were just some of Sowers’ lifelong teammates. All of them played sports their whole lives and were deeply impacted by the Sowers family. 

“Dave Sowers was an instrumental part not only in the growth of me as a person and an athlete, but our whole friend group,” Stover said.

There are around 15 to 20 people in the broader group, and Stover didn’t want to leave anyone out as he lost himself in reminiscence. Every time they came back from college, it was like nothing had changed, even once Sowers was a star. They all knew he would be, and he still has that pass-first mindset they inspired in him as a kid. So, as much as Sowers and his dad molded those people, they helped shape his career in turn. 

Sowers comes home regularly, not just for Eagles games, and he always hits up the squad in one of their many group chats. Most are still living in the Philadelphia area and see each other regularly, so it’s easy to connect.

Sports and Philly pride were the genesis of his most important relationships with both family and friends. So when Sowers found out the Waterdogs would be based in Philadelphia, it was surreal. 

“When I take a step back and am like, I’m 26, I’m able to wear ‘Philadelphia’ across my chest, something that I’m proud of and my family is proud of, it’s going to be something that’s super special,” Sowers said. 

He’ll make his official home debut as a Philadelphia Waterdog this Saturday at noon ET against the Boston Cannons. As usual, he’ll have a section packed to the brim with supporters. The same community that piled into scalding hot bleachers for district playoffs games 25 miles north of the city will come out with equal force this weekend, just to watch Sowers. 

In classic Philly fashion, Stover promised a rowdy crowd for the homecoming games.  

“You’ll know where our squad is going to be sitting,” he said. "There will be no doubt about that.”