The accidental professional lacrosse player

The accidental professional lacrosse player

Postby Sonny on Sun Oct 15, 2006 8:06 pm

PORTLAND, Oct. 13, 2006 - D.J. Driscoll knows what it's like to take the unexpected path. Although rooting against Notre Dame while growing up, he wound up as an All-American lacrosse player for the Fighting Irish. Similarly without a thought of professional lacrosse as a youngster, he now finds himself on the roster with the Portland LumberJax for the 2007 season.

"Going into my senior year, I didn't even want to play professional lacrosse," Driscoll explained laughing. "I just wanted to relax after I graduated and probably join the occasional summer league team. I think the excuse was that I didn't want to start working right away during the summer after graduation."

On a whim while trying to extend the college experience and prolong the summer, Driscoll decided to enter the outdoor league, joining a team in Los Angeles. Since Driscoll was already used to the field game, he transitioned quickly to the professional level. Despite all the fans and games, he believes the best part of his experience in L.A. was the camaraderie that he had with his fellow teammates.

"I had no bearing when I joined the L.A. team and had no idea what to expect," the Downingtown, Pa. native said. "I had a blast on the team, and I am glad that I chose that path. I hope that my success transitions to the indoor league too."

Back in August, Jax Head Coach and General Manager Derek Keenan spoke with Driscoll about joining the team. Trying to gauge the young athlete's interest, Keenan spoke with him about his thoughts on joining the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and making the cross-country move to Portland. On Sept. 13, 2006, the Jax selected Driscoll in the third round as the 36th overall pick. Within a day, Driscoll decided to make the Rose City his home.

"I told [Keenan] that I would give the indoor game a shot," he remembered. "I don't really know if it is a great fit for me, but this is an opportunity that I am willing to take. I am excited, because now I live in Portland and I feel like I can play for my new home team."

At 6 feet 4 inches, 199 pounds, Driscoll has a lot to offer the Jax as a rookie. Driscoll anchored a Notre Dame defense that allowed just 7.67 goals per game last season, which was 11th-best in NCAA Division I, and he also led the team in groundballs (looseballs in the NLL) with 67. As a co-captain in 2006, he was named the Great Western Lacrosse League's Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He also earned 2006 STX/United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) second-team All-American status. For his Fighting Irish career, Driscoll finished with one goal, two assists and 202 groundballs.

Playing lacrosse since the age of three, it was inevitable that Driscoll would go on to play at the collegiate level. He didn't have a hard time finding a good program that wanted a 6-foot-4-inch defenseman either, but the problem would be choosing the right school.

"I really didn't like Penn State or Notre Dame growing up and cheered against them in everything even though people in my area loved them," he explained. "It was a little rough taking the difficult path of deciding to become part of the Fighting Irish, but when I went on my visit everything just clicked."

Since academics were his main focus, Driscoll found what he was looking for on Notre Dame's campus. He loved both the academic challenges and athletic facilities they offered and said that the campus community was very outgoing and supportive.

"I can't really pinpoint my greatest memory with the team," he said. "I go to practice everyday and whether its 6 o'clock punishment, runs and lifts or the preseason you develop confidence and a bond with all the guys. They become your best friends."

The camaraderie among his Fighting Irish teammates carried over onto the playing field last season when Notre Dame qualified for the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2001. Driscoll's team lost in the first round to the eventual national champion Virginia, 14-10, during his senior campaign.

Keenan's confidence in Driscoll showed through when he said, "We feel he will be an outstanding defender in the NLL. There will be a fairly significant learning curve for him because of the limited indoor lacrosse experience; however, his athleticism and intelligence will make for a worthy transition to NLL lacrosse."

Driscoll added that he is over the initial shock of playing for a professional team. He also shows confidence in the coming season and hopes his outdoor experience carries over to the indoor game. Despite playing long-pole defense throughout college, Driscoll believes that he will be able to contribute to the team through his defense and transition on the floor.

"I learned a lot over the summer, and with lacrosse you keep learning as you go. I'm anxious to see what else I can pick up," Driscoll explained. Hoping his teammates help in his transition he added, "I grew up watching some of these guys and now I am going to be playing with them. Dallas Eliuk was my favorite player because I was from Philadelphia. It will be fun when I finally get to meet him; I think I might get a little star struck."
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