It’s PLL All-Star Weekend, so I thought it would be fun to look at some of the best lacrosse players of years past. While lax fans today are familiar with the Powells, the Gaits, Tom Schreiber, and Rob Pannell, there’s a large number of former players who would be phenomenal in the modern game. Their abilities and contributions to the sport transcend time. This would have been a tremendous group to see play professional lacrosse.
With the rich history of the game, it’s impossible to include every great player on this list. But if anything, this can get the wheels turning and help you create you own collection of Lacrosse All Stars (*wink, wink*).
None of these players ever played in the MLL (began in 2001) nor the PLL (began in 2019). That was the criteria I stuck to when putting together my all-star list with the best lacrosse players.
Best Lacrosse Players Who Never Played MLL or PLL
Eamon McEneaney – Cornell
Back in the day, the NCAA had a rule that freshman couldn’t play varsity. That was the only thing that kept Eamon from being a four-time All-American. More than anything, people have always spoken to his tenacity and competitiveness as something that separated him from the rest of his peers.
Tom Postel – CW Post
Stories of Postel have become legendary. A mainstay on the U.S. team, Postel still has his name all over the CW Post (now LIU) record books.
Jason Coffman – Salisbury
Prior to 2021, Coffman owned the all-time scoring mark across college lacrosse. He’s a multiple-time All-American, national champion, and one of the main players behind the juggernaut that has become Salisbury lacrosse.
Jimmy Lewis – Navy
Often considered the greatest among lacrosse players of his generation, Lewis was the man behind the machine that was the Naval Academy in its decade of dominance in the 1960s. He’s a three-time Attackman of the Year whose name is still plastered in the Navy record books. Lewis was also named Most Outstanding Player on Navy’s men’s soccer national championship team in 1964.
Brooks Sweet – UMass
All-American and All-World player are a few of the accolades for Sweet. If you bought STX gear between 1988 and 2007, you probably got it from this guy.
Jon Reese – Yale
How can you not have the guy who broke Gary Gait’s single-season goals total on this list as one of the best pre-MLL/PLL lacrosse players? Reese was a do-it-all midfielder for Yale in its run to the 1990 Final Four and was also an All-Ivy football player. The stories of his toughness are legendary, as is the fact he never wore socks when he played. The 1990 Midfielder of the Year has been a mainstay in the Yale program to this day, and the field even bears both his and his brother’s name.
Albert Ray – Rutgers
The two-sport athlete at Rutgers was named an All-American three times and was one of the first Black First Team All-Americans in the sport. He went on to pursue an NFL career and still holds records at Rutgers to this day.
Gordon Purdie – Adelphi
He’s the man who started the Australian Invasion for Adelphi. An NCAA All-American, an All-World midfielder, and a former NLL star, Purdie was one the best lacrosse players of his time. Purdie has been involved in the game at so many levels and has seen success at every stop. He was a player who excelled at both ends of the field and with a motor that never stopped.
Frank Urso – Maryland
Maryland has never officially retired a number for its men’s lacrosse team, but there is one number it hasn’t given out in almost four decades: Frank Urso’s No. 21. The main man behind Maryland’s dominant run in the ’70s saw Urso be named All-American multiple times and go 36-5 over his four-year career.
Steve Kisslinger – Towson
Kisslinger was one of the elite takeaway defenders in the game and one of the major catalysts to Towson’s epic run to the 1991 NCAA Final. If both he and Ric Beardsley played in today’s game, they would be two of the top defenders in the league. Their style of play was built for the PLL before the PLL was even a thing.
Dave Morrow – Princeton
Morrow’s contributions to the game transcend the sport on so many levels. The story of of Warriors beginning and the importance of the 1998 World Games forever changed the equipment industry. While most people see the face behind Warrior, they forget that Dave Morrow was one of lacrosse’s best defenders. He was a freak athlete who helped turn Princeton into the powerhouse of the ’90s.
Fred Opie – Syracuse
Dr. Opie was an absolute stud at Herkimer CC before matriculating to Syracuse University, where he was a star defender for the Orange. He later played for the U.S. National Team in the 1990 World Games.
Dave Pietramala – Johns Hopkins
What else is there to say here? When people talk about the defensive position, this is who they talk about. It’s a shame that generations of players haven’t had the opportunity to see Pietramala play, and the 1989 championship game has gone down as arguably the greatest game in lacrosse history.
Graham Harden – UNC
Harden was the backbone of UNC’s perfect 16-0 season in 1991 and was named the Defenseman of the Year for his efforts. His accolades speak for themselves as he was also the ACC Player of the Year and went on to have a successful club career, too. Harden also was one of the catalysts behind the growth of lacrosse in Southern Ohio after his playing days were done.
Paul Schimoler – Cornell
Arguably the greatest goalie in the history of the game. His 30-save game in the NCAAs is still talked about to this day. Schimoler also backboned the USA to a world championship. He may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.
Quint Kessenich – Johns Hopkins
Kessenich was a four-time All American at Johns Hopkins. What most people don’t realize is how good of an athlete Quint was/is. While he was a field goalie, he played on the floor in the MILL before it became the NLL.
Oren Lyons – Syracuse
A person whose contributions to the game far outweighs what he did on the field. Lyons was the backbone of the great Syracuse teams of the 1950s that included Jim Brown. He’s more than one of the best lacrosse players ever; Lyons has been a mainstay and leader within the Haudenosaunee people and someone who has transcended the sport.