New York Lizards attackman Rob Pannell is living the dream that he always hoped would come true. Not only did the standout player reach this goal, he far exceeded simply reaching it.
In 2012, Pannell was the No. 1 draft choice in the MLL Collegiate Draft, selected by the Lizards. He did not join the league until 2013 due to injury, electing to take advantage of a fifth year at Cornell University. Even though he had to wait an extra year to turn pro, to say he came into the league off of an outstanding career at Cornell would be an understatement.
Pannell had arguably one of the most decorated careers a player could have in college. He is the record holder for all-time career NCAA points (354 points), he won the Tewaarton trophy in 2013 as a fifth year senior, he was the Ivy League’s first ever three-time Player of the Year award winner, he won the Lt. Raymond Enners award as the NCAA’s most outstanding player in men’s college lacrosse in 2011 and 2013 and won the Jack Turnbull Award as the outstanding attackman in Division 1 in 2010 and 2011. He was also nominated for a 2011 ESPY for best male college athlete, the first lacrosse player ever to be nominated. But that was only the start.
Soon after finishing his college career, Rob jumped right into the even higher paced MLL. Yet he embraced the transition with grace and proved that he was ready to compete.
“It was great to know that all my hard work paid off. I think it really meant a lot to me to be the number one draft pick and to know that I would be playing professional lacrosse, a lifelong goal of mine.”
Pannell deservingly proved his work ethic in his college game, which ultimately led him to reaching his goal of playing professional lacrosse, but he attributes a lot of his success to the welcoming environment of the New York Lizards.
“The guys on my team were very welcoming and really allowed me to get off on the right foot, which allowed me to develop into the player that I was this season.”
Although the team welcomed him right in, they still challenged the rookie by putting him right into the mix of things less than a week after finishing his collegiate career and only a few days after receiving the Tewaaraton Award.
“They threw me right in there, and I found myself in my first game ever having the ball in the last minute, being trusted to make a play, being down by one goal. I prepared myself for that level of play over the last couple of years, and I think that I adapted well to the MLL, made a relatively smooth transition, and it led me to have success.”
Pannell has also been fortunate enough to maintain certain connections and friendships from his days at Cornell. He had a close friend in Steve Mock who he spent his four years with at school. The two had an uncanny connection and he feels it’s a special opportunity to be able to continue that chemistry. He has also developed a bond with best friend Max Seibald that started when he was a freshman at Cornell and Seibald was a senior.
“We work together on a lot of things so we’re extremely close. It means a lot to be playing with him. He guided me when I was a freshman at Cornell, he was a senior that I looked up to, and I wanted to be him in certain ways. I look to him for many things, so I’m very thankful to have him as a friend. It’s really cool to have that dynamic,” Rob shared about his friendship with Seibald.
When most players are asked about their most memorable moment in a career, they will cite their first goal, or an exciting game-winning goal. Although Pannell remembers his first win in the MLL as a special moment in his first season, another moment resonates a little stronger with him.
“One particular game, I was on the field and I remember some kid yelling to me from the stands, and he turns around and points to the back of his shirt and it was a number 3 on a Lizards shirt. That was just really special to me. I just remember being a kid wanting to interact with players and be in the stands watching them wearing Lizards shirts. For him to yell out in the middle of a game just to get my attention, and for me to look over, it just put the biggest smile on my face.”
This interaction with the kids and the developing generations of lacrosse is what makes it worth it for Pannell. When the star isn’t training or traveling for the Lizards, he is traveling for every type of clinic and camp one can imagine. For him it’s all about growing the game, and working with these children truly is his passion.
“Interacting with the kids and being able to teach them is really my passion. I remember being younger, wanting to go to camps and just meet players and shake their hand, let alone be instructed by some of the best players in the world.For me to be able to give that back and give them that sort of experience, to put a smile on their face, is really important to me, so I look at any opportunity I can to do that.”
As Pannell worked more and more with children, he eventually started up his own company, RP3 lacrosse, which provides camps at different locations for kids to attend. Having just moved into New York City with Seibald, the two started youth lacrosse teams in the Big Apple called LC New York, which he feels caters to “a market that is relatively untapped and a little behind when it comes to elite lacrosse camps and developing kids. It’s an area that we can be really influential in.”
With the big move into the city came a couple of exciting developments for Pannell as well. He signed an endorsement deal with Brine, one of the leading lacrosse equipment brands, he also signed with Wheaties and an up and coming company called Wreckless Lacrosse.
""Since signing with Brine in August it has been great to begin to see first hand how one of the biggest companies in lacrosse operates," he said about working with Brine. "Working with the people at Brine has been great and we are all extremely excited for what the new year has in store for Brine and RP3."
With Wheaties, he feels that it is a special opportunity for him as someone who grew up looking forward to seeing who was on the next cover of the Wheaties box. But he also feels it is a unique opportunity for lacrosse to become more mainstreamed. “It will help get the eyes on it for people who might not really know what it is,” he explains.
Wreckless Lacrosse is a new apparel company that Pannell thought would be a perfect opportunity to be a part of something new where he can have his own line with the company, and he has a say in what styles and types of clothing are coming out next. He is excited for the opportunity to combine fashion and lacrosse.
For Pannell, the goal for this upcoming season is plain and simple: to win a championship. “That’s always been my goal. I’ve always come short in every level that I’ve played at so far. I think there’s no greater feeling, although I haven’t experienced it yet. There’s no greater feeling than being the last ones standing in your sport.” If last season is any indicator of Pannell’s success, one can only imagine that the best is yet to come.