After being cut by his hometown high school’s varsity lacrosse program his ninth grade year, Rob Pannell ’08 carved out a name for himself, not only as one of the best players at Deerfield Academy but also as one of the best lacrosse players of all time, earning many honors in his high school, collegiate, and Major League Lacrosse careers.
This March, Pannell re-connected with Deerfield when he helped coach the team at IMG Academy during the preseason program. Pannell eagerly lent his time to lead some practices for the team. Young Hur ’18 describes being coached by Pannell as “both intimidating and exciting. Looking up at such a successful player, I definitely tried to incorporate all of the tips that he gave us into the drills that we were doing.”
Pannell has dominated opponents on the lacrosse fields for years and is notorious for his turn-around shot. During his year at Deerfield, he played both lacrosse and basketball. He set and still holds the Deerfield lacrosse record with ninety-nine points in a single season. Also, he won the Stewart Lindsay, Jr. Award for the most outstanding attackman in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference. Andrew Philie ’09, an influential player on the 2008 New England champions Deerfield boys lacrosse team and current varsity boys lacrosse coach, remembers playing alongside Pannell: “He was really calm, cool, and collected, not trying to force anything. He was a really smart player. He didn’t have to do too much to let the game come to him. He also did a good job of getting everyone involved.”
Boys varsity lacrosse captain Jared Strauss ’17 recalls following Pannell’s rise to fame: “I remember watching him my freshman year while he was at Cornell and finding out that he went to Deerfield. One time we were watching him and my dad told me, ‘This guy is going to be the best player in the nation,’ and he did that.” Pannell steamrolled into the Ivy League at Cornell. During his freshman year, he led Cornell in points. A broken foot in the second game of his senior season forced Pannell to rehabilitate, but he returned stronger for a fifth season. Finishing his college career as a three-time All-American, two-time National Player of the Year, and Tewaaraton Award winner, he was drafted first overall by the New York Lizards in the 2012 MLL draft.
In his four years playing in the MLL, Pannell continued collecting accolades. He has been named a three-time all-pro selection, two-time league leader in scoring, and offensive player of the year. In 2015, Pannell led the New York Lizards to their first MLL championship in twelve years.
In addition to coming to Deerfield lacrosse’s preseason, Pannell is trying to expand his coaching into other formats. Pannell offers an online instructional lacrosse video series through The PlayersStudio. “He was always mature, poised, and ambitious at Deerfield,” said coach Chip Davis. According to Mr. Davis and Mr. Philie, Pannell has many strengths beyond pure lacrosse talent. “He’s not laid back. He’s not going to let someone keep repeating mistakes on the field. Like his game, he’s very precise,” Mr. Davis said.
Mr. Philie remembers Pannell for his work ethic: “He was a guy that went about his business. He didn’t make a big deal of getting ninety-nine points in fourteen games here. He attacked every day with the love of the game on his mind.”
Pannell is starting up his fifth season with the New York Lizards where he has been an all-star his entire career.