High school buddies Brendan Tevlin, Rich Shahpazian and Mike Muha were hanging out at Muha's house one night in late June talking about the kinds of things 19-year-olds will talk about when Tevlin turned to one of his favorite subjects anytime-- lacrosse.
"He was saying how he hadn't picked up his stick yet much this summer and he was anxious to play again," Shahpazian said. "Brendan said, 'Let's have a big pickup game; get a bunch of guys together and just play. That would be great.' "
It was a small but important dream by a young man whose too-brief life was already crammed with high aspirations and the drive and wherewithal with which to see them through.
That lacrosse game that Brendan spoke of has come to fruition only five weeks after the idea was bounced off a couple of his close pals. In fact, in excess of 100 players will participate.
Thing is, every single one of them would do anything in the world right now to have no reason to play this particular game.
It's the Brendan Tevlin Lacrosse Festival Saturday, Aug. 2 at Seton Hall Prep's Kelly Athletic Complex in West Orange, and it's being played, sadly, in memory of this bright, affable youngster.
Brendan, a freshman at the University of Richmond this past year, was shot to death on a West Orange street June 25, one night after that chat among a few guys who'd developed a strong friendship as students together at Seton Hall.
Brendan spent his fateful night at another pal's home playing video games before heading back to the Tevlin family home in Livingston. The popular 19-year-old never made it. He was chased down in his vehicle and shot multiple times while in the driver's seat. No arrests have yet been made.
"This was the best way to honor him," Shahpazian said. He graduated with Brendan in 2013 and spent this past school year at Drew University, where he is a midfielder on the lacrosse team.
"Brendan was so passionate about lacrosse and about everything else in life. So motivated, so involved. He would have been so successful in whatever it was he decided to do. In high school, he was a role model for other guys his own age."
Brendan was a young man of action. He was involved in many organizations and clubs at Seton Hall, such as the Student Council, Ambassador's Club and Knights of Setonia, a community service group. Outside of school, he was, among other things, a talented bagpiper with the Essex Shillelagh Pipes & Drums. The group's home base is the Shillelagh Club, whose property borders the Kelly Complex.
At Richmond, Brendan was a member of the school's club lacrosse team.
Well, Brendan and his buddies obviously had much in common. Shahpazian and several other Prep friends are also men of action--at the very least to step lively here to pay homage to their fallen comrade.
"I'm really proud of Rich Shahpazian and the other friends of Brendan for putting this all together," Seton Hall lacrosse coach David Giarrusso said. "Seton Hall has nothing to do with the planning and organization of this. It's a bunch of friends getting together to play lacrosse for all the right reasons."
Soon after Tevlin's murder, Shahpazian--a lacrosse captain as a senior--met with fellow Seton Hall grad Dave King at the Broadway Diner in Summit to begin organizing the lacrosse game Brendan had discussed.
"We talked for about an hour, wrote some stuff down in a notebook," Shahpazian said. "We were serious about it, but we never thought we'd get this far."
By "this far" Shahpazian means the 116 players who had signed up to play and the 227 non-playing attendees who had registered as of 4 p.m. Friday. Among the 227 are quite a few who have volunteered their time as part of the check-in and set-up staff. Check in time for players is 10 a.m. and the event gets underway at 11.
Players are making a minimal donation of $20 to participate and all others are asked to pay at least $10. Proceeds will go to the Tevlin family.
Shahpazian's mom, Debbie, suggested that her son publicize the event online with Sign Up Genius, and that has certainly helped spread the word along with other modes of social media. That was good thinking by Debbie, but Rich never expected it to be that good.
Here is the link to that website: LINK !!!!!!
"I thought if we got 100 people total that would be awesome," Rich said. "Once I saw the sign-up had hit 200, I said, 'Wow, we're really gonna have a big day.' "
So big that the original concept of an informal pickup game was no longer viable. Shahpazian asked players to identify their preferred position on the website and then he and younger brother Johnny ( a sophomore lacrosse player at the Prep last spring) set about dividing the players among four teams for two games, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., followed by a barbecue hosted by the Shillelagh Club.
"This would not be happening without the help of a lot of people. The support and the donations have been tremendous," Shahpazian said. He expresses particular gratitude to assistant headmaster Michael Gallo and athletic director Larry Baggitt for clearing the use of the facility and to Noel O'Keefe of the Shillelagh Club for his organization's generosity.
But, as Giarrusso pointed out, this event really came down to the vision and commitment of Shahpazian and some of his other dear buddies. Muha, King, Joe Dimieri, Rich Baumrind, Drew Baldauf, Andrew Raleigh and Ryan Leigh and Mike Gallo all dove into this project head first to make this happen.
No, Shahpazian, would argue. Brendan Tevlin is the one who made this happen.
"It just goes to show how many lives Brendan touched," Shahpazian said. "He was a kid who lived life to the fullest and always made the right choices. You see this and you know Brendan touched so many lives. That's the thing that makes you smile at the end of the day."