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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: A salute to Mike Powell

And a nod to those who helped him along the way to become the Mike Powell we all loved to watch.

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This weekend, one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time will take his place among the Syracuse Orange legends at the top of the JMA Dome.

Mike Powell returns to the building where he became an icon to watch his legendary No. 22 jersey be retired.

Mike’s obviously one of the most accomplished lacrosse players and Syracuse athletes of all time, so let’s start with a quick (or not that quick) look at his biggest ones:

  • Two-time National Champion
  • Two-time Tewaaraton Award winner (Lyle Thompson the only other)
  • Four-time First Team All-American (only player in Syracuse history)
  • Four-time winner of Jack Turnbull Award for nation’s best attackman (only one ever)
  • Three-time member of NCAA All-Tournament Team
  • Two-time winner of W.H. Brine Award, given to Most Outstanding Player of the Division I Championship game
  • Syracuse’s all-time leading point scorer (307 points)
  • Led Orange in scoring all four years
  • Most assists (34) and second-most points (58) in NCAA Tournament in Syracuse history

But to salute Mike Powell is to do much more than simply look at his accolades and statistics.

First and foremost, it’s to salute those in Mike’s life who made an impact on him and played a huge role in helping him reach the heights he did in his career and life. That’s exactly how Mike wants it.

If you don’t know, Mike was always known as a reluctant superstar. By his own admission, he was never comfortable being in the spotlight, especially as an individual player in a team sport.

Mike wrote a wonderful article for earlier this week, which is the first in a series he plans on doing, where he wants to shift the spotlight to those who influenced him. The first article was about his first lacrosse coach back in Carthage, Kirk Ventiquattro, or ‘Coach V’ as Mike knows him.

Here’s a little taste of what he had to say in that article:

“I have made the decision that instead of being weird and running from the spotlight, like my gut always tells me to do, I will use this amazing honor as an opportunity to shift the light onto the important people in my life that were instrumental along the way...I want to prove that Saturday’s jersey retirement is not an individual honor whatsoever, but instead a celebration of a community, a family, a tradition and a team”.

I just love to hear a superstar who doesn’t forget what and who helped him along the way.

While he certainly had a lot of help and influence on his way to legend status, there is simply no denying what Mike Powell was on the lacrosse field. And what he was was the most electrifying athlete I’ve ever seen in the sport.

His accolades and stats are as good or better than anyone whose ever played, but Mike was a player you really had to see to truly appreciate. Sure, the above list is impressive, but there was nothing more impressive than watching him work his magic out on the field.

No one could do what Mike could do, and he showed it off in the most exciting way possible. He was one of those athletes whose skill was so superior that he made you think he might not actually be human, like he had been gifted with that super-human quickness and came down to show it off like Superman from Krypton.

His quickness and stick skills combined with his unique creativity added up to a player whose flair was unparalleled and made him lacrosse’s human highlight reel.

As brother Casey alludes to his tweet from earlier this week with the #belikeMike (where have I heard that before?), he was the player that young laxers pretended to be while playing in their backyards. The way he played the game inspired generations of youngsters after him.

His inspiration was somehow even greater than that, though. He generated so much excitement on a lacrosse field that he actually had the ability to single-handedly get people interested in the sport.

Just take the man who is now the lead college lacrosse voice at ESPN, Syracuse alum Anish Shroff. Anish had the good fortune of attending SU at exactly the same time as Mike, and started covering the team because it was his assignment to do so.

Four years later, a young man who had never been exposed to the game before had become, as he puts it, a fan of the sport for life. Anish is far from the only one who fell in love with this wonderful game because they first loved what they saw from No. 22. I know because I’m one of them.

And so I echo the sentiments of Anish in saying ‘Thank You’ to Mike, for not just the incredible memories of watching him play, but for all the enthusiasm and love that I’ve felt for this amazing sport as a direct result in the two decades since.

Congratulations to Mike on this incredible and well-deserved honor! Can’t wait to see that No. 22 on Saturday; and that highlight reel, too!