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Redemption: Rob Pannell Receives a Second Chance at a National Title

As time ran out at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, it was clear that Cornell’s hopes of winning another national lacrosse championship in 2013 had come to an end. The trite feeling throughout the fans and players on the field was one felt for more reasons than one. Yes, a championship campaign for the Big Red had come to a close at the hands of the formidable Duke Blue Devils, and it was a close fight – a 16-14 loss that was sure to haunt Cornell for some time. However, while the men in blue were celebratory, it was clear that with their win came a great loss.

Right next to the heap of jumping white and blue jerseys sat the Big Red’s number three. He crouched on the field watching the celebration, knowing this would be his last time sporting his coveted Cornell jersey. With a Blue Devil win, came an end to the collegiate career of one of the best players to ever hold a lacrosse stick, Rob Pannell.

While at Cornell, Pannell cemented his legacy as one of the greats, holding countless records and winning a seemingly endless amount of awards. Starting in 2009, Rob Pannell was named Rookie of the Year and a third-team All American. For the rest of his career, Pannell maintained his status as a first-team All American, became the first player ever to be named the Ivy Player of the Year three times, and has twice been named the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player. Pannell is the second leading scorer in NCAA Lacrosse history and holds both the Ivy League and Cornell all-time scoring records.

In his final season, Pannell was awarded the highest honor in college lacrosse, the Tewaaraton trophy, after falling just short of the award to fellow great and former Virginia attackman, Steele Stanwick, two years prior. He was presented the honor in Washington DC, yet, while standing in the spotlight, Pannell never forgot about why he was there and how he came to be holding that trophy.

“Having come up short again in 2013 was disappointing, but winning the Tewaaraton was a tribute to my teammates and coaches and the hard work that we had put in all season long. Without them, I wouldn’t have been on stage accepting that trophy. The way I see it, I was just the one up there, accepting it for the team, because they deserved it every bit as much as I did.  At the end of the day, I would trade it in for a championship with my closest friends in a second,” reminisced Pannell.

The last time many Big Red fans saw this legend was at that Final Four game in Philadelphia, but Pannell has accomplished much since then. Following his final year of eligibility, Pannell went back to Long Island to play for his favorite Major League Lacrosse team, the New York Lizards. He was the number one overall draft pick in the 2012 MLL draft. In his rookie campaign, Pannell ranked second overall in points and was named Rookie of the Year.

When asked about the difference between playing for the Lizards and the Big Red, Pannell said, “The biggest difference, aside from the level of play in the MLL, which is by far the highest level of lacrosse in the world today, is the time you spend with that team and how close you become. At Cornell you spend 5-6 hours a day together between film, workouts, practice, study hall, and eating meals together. You become brothers.  You get to know a group of guys like never before.  With the Lizards, you come together on Thursday or Friday for a few days and then go off and do your own thing for the remainder of the week.  Its great for those few days, but you miss being around your teammates and the locker room aspect that is there every day in college.”

The change in time spent with his team may be different for Pannell, but it did not effect what he identifies as his biggest accomplishment since leaving Schoellkopf Field: winning the MLL title this past summer with the Lizards. Pannell recorded four goals in the victory in front of 8,674 fans in Kennesaw, Georgia.

“It has been my life long goal to win a championship at the highest level possible,” said Pannell. “After coming so close in college, I wanted it that much more and finally won one. The second that final whistle blew this past August, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Aside from MLL, Pannell continues to do his part in developing the sport that helped develop him into the man he is today. “Up to this point, I have started three companies within the sport, signed multiple endorsement deals, and developed a clothing line,” Pannell stated.

He credits Cornell and his business background in helping him become one of the premiere faces of the sport saying, “My time at Cornell has led to a more entrepreneurial approach when it comes to the sport of lacrosse and trying to do things differently than those who have come before me. With my business background from the Dyson School, I have been able to start and run these companies successfully, taking what I have learned and putting it to use in the best way possible in the sport that I have loved for the past 17 years.”

While Rob Pannell continues his endeavors to cultivate the sport of lacrosse, he will always remember why he loved playing for Cornell. “My favorite part about playing for the Big Red was the family that is Cornell Lacrosse. Starting with the coaches and current team, but then moving to the parents and alumni that have come before us. Cornell has as rich and historic a tradition as any school, and it was amazing to be a part of that.  We call ourselves the Cornell Lacrosse Family for a reason because that is what we are, and we all take care of one another during our time at Cornell and long after.”


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