PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Misunderstood Jack Rowlett Just Out There Enjoying the Game


Jack Rowlett posed the question to Grant Ament during a game earlier this season.

“When are you getting on a knee?” he asked regarding Ament’s relationship status.

Rob Pannell got an earful as well.

“Have you been doing squats,” Rowlett inquired, “or are those pants just tight on your butt?”

The between-the-lines banter might surprise some coming from Rowlett. The two-time Premier Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Year finalist is in only his third professional season. He’s better known for pestering his opponent with an aggressive style and dramatic takeaway checks.

“Jack has a nasty streak to him that really puts pressure on anybody he covers,” Chaos coach Andy Towers told the PLL’s Joe Keegan. While Towers frequently tells his team to “stay angry,” Rowlett, who leads the Chaos with 14 caused turnovers, tries to dial back the intensity — at least when the ball is on the other side of the field and he’s not trying to make his mark miserable.

“That’s more of a typical conversation,” he said of his dialogues with Ament and Pannell. “People think I’m such a [jerk] when I play because I may chop down on people’s arms a little bit hard sometimes, but I don’t really talk much trash to guys during games and lean way more towards being lighthearted and trying not to take it too seriously.”


“Jack has a nasty streak to him that really puts pressure on anybody he covers.”

— Andy Towers


This summer, the Chaos similarly have defied expectations — both real and perceived. They’ve fed off the stereotype of the plucky underdog. They also seem to be playing their best lacrosse when it matters the most and have reached the semifinals for the third consecutive year.

After an 0-3 start, the Chaos went 4-2 through the rest of the regular season to secure the sixth seed. Two weekends ago, they topped the third-seeded Archers 13-10 in the PLL quarterfinals, with Rowlett earning CrowdStrike Defender of the Week honors. It was their second win over the Archers, which touted the most efficient offense in the league. The Chaos are now 5-1 all-time against them. They’ll meet the Atlas in the first of two PLL semifinals Sunday (11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network) at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.

In the aftermath of their quarterfinal victory, you likely heard “13 percent” more times than the Chaos offense ran two-man games. That’s the percentage of fan poll voters on the league’s website who predicted they’d prevail.

“Don’t vote for us next week,” Rowlett said in the postgame press conference. Towers’ approval was audible in the background. “We’re good. If you’re the 13 percent, that’s awesome. Otherwise, we’re good.”

Rowlett chalked up the low confidence from fans to Chaos’ lack of marquee names. Like quelling a high-powered offense, he relishes the opportunity to ruin brackets. But despite his comments and the prevailing narrative, away from the cameras, Rowlett said he doesn’t believe the Chaos are “massively disrespected.”

He has another take that he’s starting to run with.  

“You could say that we have more fans than anybody,” Rowlett said. “But they're all in nursing homes and they don't go on Twitter.” 








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Fans of any age could appreciate the Chaos’ play after their slow start. The trajectory in some ways mirrors the team’s radical shift during last summer’s PLL Championship Series. After dropping all four games in group play, the Chaos got hot in the playoffs and advanced to the championship game.

This season, the return of several offensive players previously unable to travel because of Canada’s COVID-19 protocols, plus Chase Fraser’s emergence in the right-wing attack spot and Max Adler’s improved play at the faceoff stripe, have contributed to the uptick in performance.

The defense, however, has done more than hold its own.

Playing in front of two-time PLL Goalie of the Year Blaze Riorden, who again ranks among the league leaders in save percentage and saves, they’re the third-most efficient unit in the PLL behind the Archers and Waterdogs. They’re tied for first with the Archers in settled defensive efficiency (26 percent), according to PLL Advanced Stats.

“We have guys that, if they're not covering the other team’s quote-unquote No. 1 guy, they're not going to have an issue with it,” Chaos defensive coordinator Ryan Curtis said. “They're a fun group to be around, and they're really fun to coach.”

While Rowlett (North Carolina) has received that assignment more often dating back to the Championship Series, all three starting defensemen developed as standout No. 1 cover guys at the collegiate level. Jarrod Neumann (Providence) was the PLL’s Defenseman of the Year in 2019. Johnny Surdick (Army) was selected one pick ahead of Rowlett in the inaugural PLL college draft. After Surdick’s military commitments prevented him from playing in 2020, this season is the longest stretch the trio has played together. That consistency has been evident this summer for the unit that didn’t have the benefit of built-in chemistry from all attending the same college.

“You can see our connectivity defensively is certainly improved as a result of that,” Curtis said of the added time together. “I wouldn't say it's anything that we've changed schematically; it's just that these guys now know each other, what their strengths are, who we are as a defense and how we like to play.”

Back in Rowlett’s rookie year, Curtis, the 2003 MLL Defensive Player of the Year with the Boston Cannons , made him a bet — or rather a promise. If they won a championship together at any point in his pro career, they’d get matching tattoos.

“Make sure he isn’t backing out from that,” said Rowlett, who has “Luke 18:27” inked on his chest.

“That is an ongoing conversation,” said Curtis, who has seven tattoos, when reminded of the promise. “I don’t know if it was necessarily completely matching. That’d be a little weird.”

“They’re really good players and really good athletes,” Curtis added about the Chaos defense. “When that’s the case, you can take a few more risks.”  




PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE


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That’s never been a problem for Rowlett. His over-the-head checks are almost as perfectly timed as the Chaos’ late-season runs. He considers himself fortunate that growing up in Virginia he had travel coaches like John DiCamillo, who taught him every check that’s now in his repertoire and didn’t balk when Rowlett would unleash them. Besides, if Rowlett missed one, he usually could catch up and still make the play.

After starting on the 2016 national championship team his freshman season at North Carolina and earning USILA All-American honors twice, Rowlett was a PLL Rookie of the Year finalist for the Chaos in 2019. He also led the league in penalty minutes. Plays felt like they were happening faster than he could react. That often resulted in him trying to make “hero plays” that got him in trouble.   

The more reps Rowlett got, the more the game began to slow down again. He started recognizing common situations and putting himself in better positions. He’s tried to pick his spots more and committed himself to being able to guard any style of attackman. That’s always been the goal.

“I love it,” Curtis said of Rowlett’s style. “I feel like the takeaway defenseman is kind of being coached out of kids. I've seen too many times to count coaches scream at kids for throwing those kinds of checks, instead of teaching them how to throw them the right way.”

After a rash of injuries to Georgetown defensemen in the spring, Rowlett, who joined the Hoyas as the volunteer assistant coach this year, started suiting up for full practices, after which he went one-on-one with attackmen Aidan Carroll and Cade McLeod. Notably absent from the post-practice work was Tewaaraton Award finalist and Georgetown all-time leading points scorer Jake Carraway.

“We knew it would be best in season to stay away from each other,” Rowlett said. “He was obviously our premier guy, and we both decided if we were to go one-on-one, it would end in us just banging heads into each other.”

They might get the opportunity Sunday. Carraway plays for the Atlas. Rowlett missed the previous regular-season matchup, a 16-10 Atlas win, after he sustained a broken nose from a scuffle in which Paul Rabil threw Rowlett’s own helmet at him during the waning seconds of the Chaos’ win over the Cannons on Long Island.

Rowlett also will likely find himself guarding PLL MVP and Rookie of the Year finalist Jeff Teat.

That matchup harkens back to the 2016 World Lacrosse U19 gold-medal game in British Columbia between the United States and Canada. The U.S. prevailed 13-12 on a goal by Ryan Conrad with less than 10 seconds left. Rowlett made the All-World Team.

“He’s playing his best lacrosse right now because I think he knows who he is and what he’s capable of,” said Curtis, who played on the U.S. U19 team in 1996 and made the transition to the U.S. senior team after a distinguished career at Virginia.

In late June, after the Chaos’ first win of the season at Homewood Field, Rowlett addressed the U.S. U21 team at its first in-person activity in almost 17 months. “What do you need, Coach?” Rowlett answered immediately when Nick Myers reached out the day before.

“Jack’s the type of guy that wears it on his sleeve,” Myers said. “He’s such a great competitor.”

Rowlett told the players they’d experience more success the quicker they developed into a team, but his main message was more universal.

“Make sure you’re loving this and realize how cool this is,” he said to those assembled with the enthusiasm of someone who picked up a stick for the first time. “I'm sure if you thought about this four or five years ago, you would have thought this was extremely cool. Make sure it's still that fun for you.”

“Lacrosse is a game,” Rowlett said when interviewed for this story. “That’s what I remind myself and what my parents do a great job reminding me. If you don’t have fun while playing it, why are you doing it in the first place?”