Lacrosse Alum Derek Cherney '07, and Football Alums Mike Salerno '07 and Brendan McKee '07 Play on Professionally

By Alex Kantor

The AmherstCollege men’s basketball program made waves this summer when five graduates from the Class of 2008 signed professional contracts in Europe – a feat usually reserved for Division I programs with athletic scholarships. Head men’s basketball coach David Hixon ’75 sent his first players overseas in 1977, and now Amherst graduates from other sports are starting to catch on.

Photo by Evan Habeeb
Derek Cherney '07 is one of just three NESCAC alums
playing in MLL

Amherst lacrosse alum Derek Cherney ’07 just wrapped up his first full season of professional lacrosse playing for Major League Lacrosse’s Washington Bayhawks. Cherney is one of less than a dozen Division III players to be drafted into MLL, and one of just three NESCAC graduates to make it in the league as a regular player.

Cherney finished his rookie season with 13 goals and five assists for a total of 18 points this season.  That point total landed him in sixth place in scoring on the Bayhawks, after he played in all but one game. On two occasions Cherney had three-point games, including a two goal and one assist performance against the Boston Cannons.

In addition to his duties for the Bayhawks, Cherney works a full time job at the CIT Group in New York City as a financial analyst.

Cherney is not the only member of the class of 2007 making headway in professional sports. Classmates Brendan McKee and Mike Salerno recently finished their first and second professional football seasons in Europe. Both players landed on teams in Europe’s top league, playing for different teams in Vienna, Austria.

Salerno played for the perennial powerhouse Vikings of Vienna, while McKee landed a spot on the Danube Dragons. The two close friends and former co-captains faced off this summer in regular season play, with McKee’s Dragons toppling Salerno’s Vikings for the first time in club history.  

Salerno and the Vikings competed in the Eurobowl this season, which is a year-long tournament consisting of the top two teams from a dozen European nations. Salerno’s team came up on the short end of a thrilling 28-24 game against the Innsbruck Raiders in the 2008 Eurobowl Championship.

Salerno Europe
Mike Salerno '07 has played two seasons
of professional football in Europe.

Primarily a safety while playing for the Lord Jeffs, Salerno was moved to the offensive side of the ball a number of times last season as a wide receiver. By the second game of this season, eight Vikings starters were injured and out of the lineup. Salerno stepped up to the plate as a quarterback, a position he had not played since high school ball at St. John’s Prep. On his first play behind center, Salerno called an audible to his receiver and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass.

McKee can relate to Salerno’s positional move in professional ball. After spending his collegiate career on the defensive line for Amherst, McKee played linebacker for the Dragons and even some fullback in short-yardage situations. Despite getting looks on offense, McKee continued to perform best when chasing down the quarterback for nearly a sack per game.

Salerno also has connections to the five Amherst basketball alums that are starting their careers in Europe this fall, as he served as a captain for the men's basketball team during their 2007 National Championship season.

While most student-athletes come to Amherst with hopes for just four years of play, more and more Lord Jeff alums are finding that they can continue to play long after graduation.