Rob Pannell, Cornell Lacrosse Player

Rob Pannell, shown here playing for Cornell’s lacrosse team, can be seen next weekend on ESPN in the MLL All Star Game. 

The Major League Lacrosse (MLL) All Star Game will be televised on ESPN 2 on Saturday, July 27, and once again, Cornell will be well represented. It is no surprise that Rob Pannell will take the field, as he is the MLL’s reigning MVP and has been an All Star many times during his seven-year MLL career, and Big Red fans were delighted to learn that Jake Pulver (class of 2018) was also selected to play. 

Pannell is widely regarded as one of the world’s preeminent players, and he graduated from Cornell in 2011 as Division 1’s all-time leading scorer with 354 points. He won the Tewaarton Trophy that year (the lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman) and was Cornell’s first-ever ESPY Award nominee for the best collegiate athlete in the country. 

Pannell set an MLL single-season record last year with 78 points, and he led his New York Lizards to the MLL championship. 

Pulver, now in his second season with the Dallas Rattlers, will play in his first MLL All Star Game. The two-time Big red captain helped Cornell to the 2018 Ivy League tournament title, the 2015 Ivy League championship and two NCAA appearances. Jake presently leads MLL in caused turnovers.

I sat down with Richie Moran, who was among the nation’s best collegiate players when his University of Maryland team won the national championship in 1959. He then coached at Cornell for 29 seasons, led the team to three national titles, and the Big Red’s 42-game winning streak remains the best-ever. I asked the Hall of Fame coach if playing professional lacrosse was even a pipe dream when he played, and he said, “No, the big option then was to play for the prestigious club teams in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We played for the prestige, and for the networking opportunities. It was a pipeline into the business world for many of these players.” Even the great players like Eamon McEneaney and Mike French had no opportunity to go pro, but they made the most of their opportunity to continue to play at the highest level. 

Today, the world’s best players get a paycheck, but it remains a fraction of what other pro athletes make, and virtually all of the MLL players have other jobs. “When I was coaching,” Moran offered, “it was my assistant coach and me. Now, the collegiate programs have much bigger staffs, and there are a lot of opportunities for the MLL players to coach as well.” 

I asked Richie if Pannell was in the conversation as one of the top three players in the world, and he said, “I don’t know who is better. Rob is an extremely durable player—he’s a 60-minute man—and he is continually among the top scorers in the league. He is the 2018 MVP, and he goes hard all the time.” Moran, who has seen every elite lacrosse player to pick up a stick in the last 60 years, added, “Rob creates things on the field that are sometimes astonishing. In my opinion, he is the top pro player” 

I also asked the retired coach what he had to say about Pulver, and he stated, “What an athlete! He is definitely one of the top defensemen ever to play at Cornell.” 

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A reminder: I wrote in late 2018 that Robert “Baby Lou” Reed had passed on, and the gathering celebrating his life will be held on Thursday, July 18, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Moakley House on Warren Road. 

Reed graduated from Ithaca High in ’71, and went on to captain the Cornell golf team, graduating in ’75. He worked in the hospitality industry for many years (a highlight was hosting Elvis Presley and his entourage in one of his hotels), and he ultimately settled in Florida, where he pursued his passion for managing golf courses and teaching the game he loved as a PGA member for over 25 years.

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