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Casey Powell quite literally came to Syracuse.

"> How the Unpredictable Casey Powell Landed Among Legends | USA Lacrosse Magazine


Casey Powell will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame alongside eight others Sept. 23 in Hunt Valley, Md.

How the Unpredictable Casey Powell Landed Among Legends

This article appears in the September/October edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Casey Powell quite literally came to Syracuse.

He grew up in upstate New York and played at tiny Carthage High School, about an 80-minute drive north of the Orange city, where snow and ice often covered the playing fields in late winter and early spring. So much so that the school took up Syracuse University’s offer to rent Coyne Field, then one of the early synthetic turf surfaces in the region, just to practice.

There was a young Casey Powell, playing right outside coach Roy Simmons Jr.’s office. “I thought he was pretty good,” Simmons said, “and so did everyone else.”

The silky smooth movement, ambidextrous creativity, and the scoring and passing touch. Simmons, himself a Hall of Famer, saw the same things a less-heralded coach, the late Mike Green, did when a 10-year-old Powell and his younger brother, Ryan, then 8, showed up for their first organized lacrosse league on the indoor cement at Duffy Fairgrounds in Watertown, N.Y.

“They’re both going to be All-Americans,” Green told the boys’ parents, Larry and Sue. (He might have said the same about youngest brother, Mikey, had he been there too.)

“We played helter-skelter, and he was helter and skelter both.” — Roy Simmons Jr.


Powell played with position-less improvisation. He is the only player in college lacrosse history to win national midfielder and attackman of the year awards.

They all saw first what the entire lacrosse world was privileged to witness in the 30 years hence (and, if you’re lucky, can still catch a glimpse of on fields across the country at camps and clinics): Casey Powell, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, as great as they come.

“It’s really emotional for me. It’s such an honor,” the 41-year-old Powell said recently during a break from teaching one such youth camp in Florida, where he now lives. “It brings back so many memories. As soon as I found out about it, I couldn’t help but think about how I started, and my parents, coaches and my brothers — all the effort we put into the sport and how much fun we had with it.”

Powell won a national title as a freshman at Syracuse in 1995, is the only college player to win national midfielder and attackman of the year awards, in 1996 and 1998, respectively, and was a four-time All-American and All-NCAA tournament pick. He’s the only American-born player to be named National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse MVP, the latter of which he won in 2015 at age 38. He captained Team USA’s field and indoor teams too. And, in the even bigger picture, he was the first of Larry and Sue’s three eldest sons to make the Powell name synonymous with the game.

His skills were fashioned, as the story’s been told, in the backyard. Casey and Ryan Powell’s elementary school gym teacher, Kirk Ventiquattro, who would coach them in high school, introduced the game in class. The boys eventually convinced their father they needed their own sticks. He sold a hunting rifle to pay for them. Soon the backyard of 25 North Jefferson Street became a firing range, the shots usually headed in the direction of little Mikey and his fishing net for a goalie stick. It was a playground of imagination, with the oldest two brothers playing the roles of Paul and Gary Gait, the transcendent pair from Canada then making the Dome their own fun house.

A decade later, Casey was inspiring his own generation of future players. “It was amazing that my dream came true,” he said. “I got to actually live my fantasy.”

There are so many great moments. Powell includes among them the bus trips, practices and every time he threw on the program’s legendary No. 22 jersey, spread eye black on his face and checked himself out in the Syracuse locker room mirror.

But there is one performance that sticks out the most for fans, historians and his coach, Simmons, who will present Powell at the Sept. 23 induction ceremony at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md.

How could anyone forget Powell’s 13 points, still a single-game Syracuse record, on seven goals and six assists, in a 22-21 win in a track meet of game against Virginia in the Carrier Dome? It was Feb. 28, 1997, his junior year.

“We played helter-skelter, and he was helter and skelter both,” Simmons said. “His style was a lot of fantasy, imagination and daring. He excelled at the unpredictable and the 5-on-4s, the 3-on-2s. He was disruptive. And you can’t tell me after watching him if he has a dominant hand. He’s so smooth, going either way. He was truly ambidextrous, mentally and physically. You had to get used to playing with him, to be ready to receive a pass from him even though he might not be looking at you.”

Like the behind-the-backs Powell tossed to a bunch of box newbies on the Team USA indoor squad two years ago, his final international competition (for now). “We got the greatest of all-time running the show,” Marcus Holman, now an assistant coach of Utah’s new Division I men’s program, said after one practice.

“CP” was so good, long before then, that he became his college coach’s retirement ticket. As the 1998 season wound down, Simmons didn’t tell anyone — except Powell — that he would retire at the end of the season. It was a plan hatched in the coach’s mind years earlier when he saw the potential a then high-school All-American Powell had. He’d be next in lineage of names like Gait, Kotz and Lockwood.

“I thought I needed one more superstar, so I could go out in a blaze of glory,” Simmons said. “I said, ‘Here he is, it’s Casey Powell.’ I didn’t say that to him, but I knew I was going to enjoy coaching him for four years. And when Casey’s last game came up, that’s when I’d retire.”


Powell and Simmons’ Syracuse careers ended abruptly in an 11-10 NCAA tournament loss to eventual champion Princeton in the national semifinals. Then Powell’s adult lacrosse odyssey began.

The National Lacrosse League’s Rochester Knighthawks drafted him first overall out of college and, at the turn of the century, Powell became one of the key names in the launch of a new outdoor professional league, Major League Lacrosse. He led the then-Long Island Lizards to the league’s first championship in 2001. Powell’s last game as pro (after nine years in the indoor NLL and 13 in MLL), however, was always up for question.

He teased the lacrosse world with several Brett Favre-like retirements/comebacks over the last decade, notably as a hired gun for the Hamilton Nationals in a 2011 run to the title game and a championship season with fellow living legend John Grant Jr. and the Chesapeake Bayhawks in 2013.

“I love the game too much. It’s like medicine for me,” Powell once said as he considered stepping away from MLL in 2015 while playing for the Florida Launch. He played one more season, and, last year, finally retired for good, or at least long enough to earn a Hall of Fame nomination. On July 15 of this year, his daughter Bella’s 11th birthday, the Launch retired his No. 22.

“Or will I be back?” he said. “I guess we’ll have to see. But not likely.”


Powell's decorated professional lacrosse career — he's the only American player to earn both NLL (indoor) and MLL (outdoor) MVP honors — ended with the Florida Launch in 2016. The team promptly retired his No. 22.

He’s never far from a field, anyway. While an assistant coaching career at Jacksonville — under former Syracuse goalie John Galloway (who was in the Carrier Dome stands as a young fan for that 22-21 game) — ended after one season, Powell finds his way between the lines in myriad other ways.

Sometimes, it’s through the non-profit World Lacrosse Foundation he runs with his fiancée, Heather Chase O’Neill, a former Syracuse field hockey player, or creating his own games of Speed Lacrosse, small-sided affairs modeled after the games he and his brothers played in the backyard all those years ago. And other times, you can find Casey Powell in more traditional settings, like the annual Vail Shootout club tournament in Colorado. (His team, the appropriately named Magic Wands, won this summer.)

“It’s been an unbelievable 30 years around the game,” he said. “I’ve been heavily involved in all aspects of it, and it’s become my way of life. I’m extremely thankful for it, and to be honored by the National Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor. I’m very excited for the induction and to be amongst the best players to ever play.”

Doug Knight, Leslie Blankin Lane, Jim McDonald, Laurette Payette, Casey Powell, Jill Johnson Redfern, Brooks Sweet, Robyn Nye Wood and Don Zimmerman will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in a black tie-optional ceremony Sept. 23 at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md. The event is nearly sold out. For more information, visit