The greatest honor of my life took place on September 23rd and I’m still pinching myself to see if it was real. I was inducted into the 2017 Hall of Fame with Doug Knight, Leslie Blankin Lane, Jim McDonald, Laurette Payette, Jill Johnson Redfern, Brooks Sweet, Robyn Nye Wood, and Don Zimmerman.
It was the culmination of everything I’ve ever loved, and everything I’ve ever dreamed of achieving in the sport of lacrosse. Being surrounded by Heather, Bella, my brothers, my parents, Coach Roy Simmons Jr. and my extended lacrosse family for it was a gift I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
I wish I could describe the feeling of being honored by some of the greatest players and coaches in the history of the game. I think the best way I can do that is to let you read the text of the speech I read that night. I hope you enjoy it:
My 2017 Hall of Fame Speech
Thank you, US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, for this honor. To my family and friends that have always been there for me and again here to support me tonight, all the players and coaches who’ve inspired me throughout the years. My amazingly talented teammates that I’ve been surrounded by throughout my entire career. My coaches, from HS to pro which there are just simply too many to mention, but I will say they have been the best in the game, including my special tenure at Syracuse and the opportunity to play for my presenter, my coach, my friend, and my hero Roy Simmons Jr.
Thank you Simmie for coming down on my behalf to Maryland or as you used to call it, “enemy territory” and being here to celebrate my induction with me tonight.Y ou did so much more than Coach lacrosse. You showed great belief in me. You dared me to wear #22. You let me run free. You brought me to new places all around the country and the world. To Mexico, to England, Scotland, Wales, you brought me to museums and art galleries, introduced me to classical music and people from so many backgrounds. You showed me life, and how lacrosse is life and I’m so thankful you opened up my world and helped me set my own course.
Carthage, where I grew up is a small town in an isolated area 90 miles North of Syracuse. The people from Syracuse call it the North Country and people from Long Island call it Canada. There was no lacrosse, so no lacrosse heritage, not exactly what Doug Knight grew up in. One day in elementary school our new gym teacher Coach Ventiquattro brought in a lacrosse stick. He passed it around, he said the sport was originated by Native American warriors, and the modern-day version of the game was a combination of all sports into one. Seemed right up our alley. We went home that night and talked with excitement about Lacrosse at the dinner table. A week later my Dad showed up with a couple sticks. I’ve heard my Dad say that buying those two $50 sticks was the best investment he ever made. Well, I gave that some thought this week and that’s an understatement. 3 Full scholarships to Syracuse University, Dad you should have been a stockbroker because you’re more like the Warren Buffet of lacrosse investment.
Once we got those sticks, we never put them down. We felt it’s magic. It brought our family together. Wall ball, backyard games, and creativity. We caught the attention of an old lacrosse coach named Mike Greene whom after hearing about us drove up to our house to watch us play in the backyard as he wanted us to join his lacrosse league. He said, Mrs. Powell, your sons are going to be All Americans someday. My Mom said they are? What are All Americans? Well, he was right, between High School and College we were named All American 17 times.
Coach Ventiquattro started the program at Carthage Central School and I formally began my playing career as a freshman. Coach V would always say “you’re either In or you’re Out” Well, I was In. Our work ethic, our Carthage against the world mentality and our “All in” daily training routine led us to become very good, very quickly. Thank you, Coach V, for introducing me to the sport, pushing me to be the best I could be, and always saying “you’re a Powell Brother, you can do anything” Because, in that statement, I believed you.
After High school, my dream of playing for Coach Simmons became a reality. I got to play in the Dome for the legendary Syracuse program and wear #22 which was worn by Hall of Famers Gary Gait and Charlie Lockwood before me. I had played with and against the best players in the world for 4 years. Playing in 4 final four’s and representing Syracuse was my dream come true.
After my collegiate career ended I started playing pro. Drafted into the NLL and an original pioneer of the MLL. I played as long as I could both leagues as well as internationally. I took what I learned from the start of my career and applied the same philosophy throughout and that is… Come to play.
I feel really lucky to have played for so long. Looking back on it all, my greatest memories had little to do with the goals, the awards, or the games. What really sticks out are the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone and the wonderful experiences I’ve had. So, thank you lacrosse for this incredible journey.
Quite simply stated, I could not have accomplished so much without my Family. My wonderful parents who let lacrosse be our thing, my sister Gretchen who is my all-time #1 fan (thanks for always standing up for us and fighting the other team’s fans), my gramma Betty, my brother’s Jason, and Mason.
Certainly, my brothers, Ryan and Mike could very well have their own chapter in this speech. It was most amazing following your career’s and watching you do what you both did. I’m very proud of you both as players and more importantly Men. The best times of my life were not playing under the lights at Carthage, the Dome, Byrd Stadium, Pepsi Center, Madison Square Garden, or any other place. The best times were in the backyard, on the wall and under the street lights with you. We did it our way and I share this honor with you both and promise to save you a seat right next to me here in the Hall of Fame.
Heather, I’m glad lacrosse brought us together. Thank you for your partnership, your friendship, and positive influence. You’ve done an amazing job leading the World Lacrosse Foundation and I’m excited for the opportunity to help more lacrosse families.
Of all the accomplishments I’ve ever had the greatest is sitting right there. Her name is Bella. Born in Canada during the 2006 World Championships while playing with my two brothers on my line. You’ve given me the green light to follow my passion and I’ve played the best lacrosse of my life with you in it. Seeing you was always my favorite moment of any game. You made losing a bit easier and winning even better! May this Hall of Fame honor be a reminder to you that if you love something and you work hard, that anything is possible.
Lastly, my professional playing career is now over but my commitment to the game’s growth is forever.
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