Cornell’s Pannell rebounds from broken foot to join 300-point club
After 13 months filled with uncertainty of his future and concern for his collegiate career, Rob Pannell is back atop his craft. A broken foot on March 3, 2012, left Pannell’s future with Cornell — and college lacrosse — in doubt.
But on March 26 of this year, Pannell joined elite company, scoring his 300th career point.
“It’s been a goal of mine for a while now, a few years,” Pannell said, “and it’s always good to reach your goals.”
A five-point day in a blowout win over Siena placed Pannell on the prestigious list of now only eight players to score 300 points in a college career.
It was the latest accomplishment in the legendary career of the Big Red’s all-time leading scorer. He’s won a pair of Jack Turnbull Awards as the nation’s best attack and is the presumed frontrunner for this year’s Tewaaraton Award.
And it all comes just more than a year after his NCAA future was cast into serious doubt.
On March 3, 2012, Pannell broke his left foot in a blowout victory over Army. Just weeks into his senior season at Cornell, Pannell’s collegiate career could have ended.
For about three months, Pannell’s future was left shrouded in mystery. Having completed four years of college, Pannell would have the opportunity to leave school and play Major League Lacrosse. Or he could have transferred, perhaps, to Virginia, where he would’ve had the opportunity to play with his brother.
But there was a way he could stay at Cornell. Though Ivy League rules prohibit an athlete with a degree from gaining an extra year of eligibility, Pannell could simply opt not to graduate and appeal to the league about gaining another year. His appeal was granted, and he has come back stronger than ever.
“I was pretty confident that when I returned that I was going to be the player that I was before I got injured,” Pannell said. “I’m of the type of attitude that I wouldn’t have been happy if I had come back and was a lesser player.”
On Oct. 7, 2012, Pannell asserted his return to his coach and the rest of the nation. More than six months after his injury, Pannell took the field at The Landon School in Bethesda, Md., for the Capital Lacrosse Invitational.
First came a pair of scrimmages with his Cornell team. To end the day, he took the field with Team USA. Playing against the best players in the world, Pannell stole the show, tallying eight points.
He was back.
“I was able to sit in the stands and watch him play,” Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca said, “and I think at that point in time, I knew there was going to be no problem having him back and integrating him back into our offense.”
Now, he’s lumped in with the likes of Matt Danowski, Mikey Powell and Tim Nelson as 300-point scorers and lacrosse legends.
Syracuse head coach John Desko coached Powell at SU in the early 2000s. Though he hasn’t seen the newest member of the 300-point club play a ton this season, he has a deep appreciation for Pannell’s game and his ability to rebound from injury.
“He’s been very productive, you know,” Desko said. “This is a fifth year for him, and I think he’s probably playing his best lacrosse coming off an injury last year and another year of maturity, another year of, you know, playing.”
What amazes Desko most, though, is how often Pannell has the ball in his stick, but what sets Pannell apart is his ability without the ball in his stick.
Pannell scored just three points in a win over Dartmouth on March 30, but the Big Red still put 21 goals on the board in a 16-goal victory. He diverts so much attention that it opens things up for his teammates.
It’s that type of mentality that he has in mind as he looks to achieve his next goal. He’s already scored his 300th career point and set Cornell’s all-time scoring record, but it leaves one glaring hole on his resume: a national championship.
“That’s the ultimate goal of mine and of our team,” Pannell said. “A lot of other goals, or we like to say, ‘standards,’ for the Cornell lacrosse team will be set along the way.”
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