Ryan McClay Reflects on Cornell Career Ahead of Induction into Hall of Fame


Ryan McClay, a two-time U.S. gold medalist, was a four-time All-American defender at Cornell.

On Saturday evening at the Grand Lodge in Cockeysville, Md., Ryan McClay will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a truly great player.

Originally from Mahopac, N.Y., he was a four-time All-American defender at Cornell University, earning first-team honors in 2002 and 2003, third-team status in 2001 and honorable mention recognition in 2000.

He also earned all-Ivy honors four times and was selected as the Ivy League’s player of the year in 2003, and he helped the Big Red win the league championship. McClay enjoyed a seven-year professional career in Major League Lacrosse and was selected as a three-time MLL All-Star.

As an international player, he was a member of the U.S. Men’s World Championship team in both 2002 and 2010, winning the gold medal both times. He was also selected to the All-World team in both of those years.

McClay was previously inducted into the USA Lacrosse Hudson Valley Chapter Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ahead of his induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, McClay joined USA Lacrosse’s Paul Ohanian via Zoom to discuss his life in lacrosse. Below is an excerpt of their conversation.

Paul Ohanian: You played a lot of sports growing up. What made lacrosse different for you?

Ryan McClay: Well, I think lacrosse was different because it combined all the things that I liked about the other sports that I played. I was a football player playing lacrosse. I played soccer up until seventh grade. I played basketball through sophomore year and even did a little bit of wrestling when I was younger. So, lacrosse kind of took all the best parts of those games that I was familiar with — the free flowing of basketball, the teamwork of football, certainly the contact and the physicality of football — translated into lacrosse, which I liked. I think that the difference was the creative nature that lacrosse allowed. And someone like me, who was a pretty disciplined, straight-laced black and white type of person to have to be a part of something that was a little atypical of what I was used to being a football player challenged me, and I think it brought out a better person and a more complete athlete. Having that ability to throw behind the back passes, throwing crazy checks, and just kind of experimenting, which you can’t really do a lot of in football.

Paul Ohanian: What is the college experience and playing at a high level like from your perspective?

Ryan McClay: When I selected Cornell, a lot of people were like, ‘Why? Why there?’ because they were coming off a 6-7 season and a 7-6 season. And I said, ‘I believe the dream. I believe what they’re doing up there. I believe in it.’ Candidly, I didn’t know the history. As I said, I was a football player playing lacrosse. So, the history of Cornell lacrosse wasn’t really on the forefront of my mind. I learned as I was there. I didn’t want to be just another piece of a cog. I wanted to be one of the reasons why we bring a program back to its former glory. So, I was never promised an immediate role, but I was promised an opportunity to earn one. My background is nothing given, everything earned. When I went to campus, I showed up playing football, and I had a cup of coffee and decided three days into it that this was not a good decision. So, I hung it up and then became a full-time lacrosse player. I didn’t room with lacrosse players in my freshman year, which was really unique. I had football players as roommates, which I think for me, was really good to have as a break from lacrosse, because the biggest difference between high school and college is that it’s a full-time job in college at the highest level. Even when you don’t have practice, if you want to be great, you have to put the time in. So, you’re spending time in the office, watching extra film, getting extra stick work in, getting extra footwork, and more time in a weight room. Having that little bit of a break at night, to get away from the guys I’m spending all that time with, I think was really valuable for me. After the first semester, I couldn’t wait to get back to campus. I felt instant connections with guys from all ages, not just my classmates, because we were all a little different than a typical lacrosse player. We each had a different story. We weren’t all the best players, but we all added a piece to the puzzle. And the coaches there wanted to be able to mold guys that fit into their system and their mindset. So, it was four years I wish I could do over every time I think about it. It was a great four years of my life.


Most Recent

Set Up and Play with Sport Resource Group's ProWall

SRG has supplied more than 100 ProWall Box Lacrosse Systems around the world.

Dialed In: Your Lacrosse Fix for Wednesday, March 22

BU and Nova men keep rolling. A marquee women's matchup on tap. Let's go.

Dialed In: Your Lacrosse Fix for Tuesday, March 21

No. 2 Duke tops Air Force in lone Monday night NCAA game.

Dialed In: Your Lacrosse Fix For Friday, March 17

Navy tops Jacksonville and other women's scores, Tewaaraton updates and more.

Twitter Posts