New York Lizards’ newest acquisition, Rob Pannell, has had an exceptional college career. The 2013 Tewaaraton Award winner closed out his NCAA career as the All-Time points leader (354) passing Charlotte Hounds attackman and Duke standout Matt Danowski last week during the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four .
Pannell will begin his professional career this weekend as his Lizards take on Danowski and the Hounds on national television Friday night (CBS Sports Network, 7:30 p.m.).
“I’m very excited to get back on the field,” Pannell said. “It’s been a while since I was drafted and I love this game so I can’t wait to play tonight.”
His MLL debut was long overdue. After being drafted in the 2012 MLL Collegiate draft, the two-time Lt. Raymond Enners Award winner suffered an injury that would sideline him for the rest of his senior season, prompting him to red-shirt and go for a fifth year to close out his career in style.
“I wanted to see how quickly the injury would heal before I made a decision,” he continued. “I knew the MLL was going to be there waiting and I didn’t want my college career to end on an injury so I decided to red-shirt and play one more season.”
And what a season it was. Pannell led Cornell to its 13
th NCAA Final Four appearance, finishing his time with Big Red leading in points, assists (204) and second in goals (204) for the Ivy League school, while racking up an impressive amount of accolades that culminated in the 2013 Tewaaraton Award.
“I’ve always wanted to be the best player on the field,” he said about his accomplishments. “I’ve worked really hard to achieve that but all the awards speak about the team and the players I worked with. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the things I did without my teammates.”
Pannell’s Big Red ended up losing in the NCAA semifinals to eventual champion Duke Blue Devils, on which Danwoski serves as an assistant coach, but not before allowing the standout attackman to put up a seven-point performance that gave him the All-Time points lead.
“I would have traded all seven points to be able to play on Memorial Day [in the final],” he continued. “It’s funny that I will be playing against Danowski tonight. I’ve played with him before and he’s one of the best players out there and to be named in the same sentence as him is an honor.”
At the end of his final game with Big Red, Pannell threw his gloves and sticks in the crowd while walking back to the tunnel, something he’s done often as a way to connect with his fan base.
“I remember when I was a kid wanting gear from the players I went to see,” Pannell said. “It’s very important for me to connect with the kids who come to see us. It’s an opportunity to make a kid’s day and provide a positive role model while doing so.”
Pannell cites Los Angeles Lakers standout Kobe Bryant as his favorite athlete but ultimately he draws inspiration from his family and especially his uncle, former Hofstra All-American Jim Metzger.
“Having my family there [at games] supporting me is very important,” Pannell said. “My uncle Jim [Metzger] was my lacrosse reference and his support and encouragement is also inspiring.”
Another source of inspiration for Pannell is 1970’s Cornell Lacrosse hero Eamon McEneaney, who died tragically in the September 11 attacks.
“Unfortunately I never met him,” said Pannell. “But if we talk about greatness, he was one of the best. I wear a number 10 shirt under my jersey to honor his legacy and to inspire me when I play.”
Only time will tell how well Pannell will do in Major League Lacrosse, but if his career so far is any indication, he is poised to become one of the greatest MLL players of all time both on and off the field.