Q&A with Brendan Fowler of the New York Lizards
The New York Lizards went into Ohio this past weekend and got absolutely obliterated. They lost 25-13 but the game wasn’t even that close. Nothing was clicking, the defense was a step too slow, and Will Manny looked to be the only one with any mojo going. He finished with four goals for the second straight game, and Rob Pannell had three goals and an assist in a losing effort. There’s not much else to say about this game because it was that bad.
On a more positive note, after the game I was able to sit on the phone with the Lizards’ newest acquisition, faceoff specialist and native Long Islander Brendan Fowler. Fowler is a two-time NCAA Champion, winning the MVP of the NCAA Tournament with Duke in 2013. He is one of the best faceoff men in the MLL, and also plays for the Vancouver Stealth. He was gracious with his time and we talked everything, from his homecoming to life in the NLL.
How did it feel your first time stepping out on the field at Hofstra? How good did it feel to play in front of your family and friends?
It was definitely surreal and really exciting. I loved my time in Charlotte and I played with a bunch of great guys, but it’s nice to come back home and play where you grew up. We have a talented group of guys here and I’m looking forward to getting to work. I got really excited that I was coming home after (Head Coach) Joe Spallino called me and told me I was traded. My family didn’t really get to see me play all that much so it’s great to always have them cheering me on now.
That must have been very exciting to find out that you were coming home. I had actually heard that former faceoff stud Greg Gurenlian recruited you to replace him. Tell me a little bit more about the trade.
Greg is a great guy and we had a lot of great battles through my career when I was in Charlotte. He was always a mentor to me and after all these years we’re now friends. Him saying that he wanted me to be the next guy on the Lizards is a great honor. It means a lot to me that he thinks that highly of me.
Obviously you’re back home and playing fifteen minutes away rather than in Charlotte, but I’m sure it takes a bit of time to adjust after getting traded. What are some things that you still need to work on?
Well I’m actually not moved back yet (laughs) but I’ll be back home for the summer in mid – June. The commute is actually longer because I’m flying out of California right now. Yeah I’m home but the adjustments are definitely a little bit of everything. I think getting to know these guys better on the field will probably be the biggest thing. I need to know how they flow and where they’re gonna be on the field, and I have a good idea already.
I know a lot of these guys already either from college or playing with Team USA. They’re a great group of guys and I felt at home when I came in so that’s not much of an issue. Like I said, it’s really just getting the reps in and getting on the same page with new teammates. I will say it is weird when I can play and then go home to my parents’ house. Usually we would be in hotel rooms and it’s weird because each time you’re on the road your habits change, your meals change, and you don’t feel at home.
You said you’re in California right now coaching. I know you’ve also been playing in the NLL with the Vancouver Stealth. A faceoff is a faceoff, but what are some of the differences between the MLL and NLL?
It’s actually a much bigger difference than what anyone would think. My first game against Denver I was called for a lot of violations because I wasn’t used to the outdoor game (laughs). I wasn’t used to winning a faceoff and being able to run with 100 yards in front of me. Box lacrosse is so much more confined.
I actually use a lot of the stuff I learned in the NLL to hone my skills in the outdoor games. I definitely have better stick skills than I had in the past because of the tight quarters, and I’m able to move better in tight spaces because of it. It just took me a little bit of getting used to, but now I’m back to where I want to be in the MLL.
Last question, you mentioned Gurenlian before as one of your mentors. Who was the toughest faceoff man you faced throughout your career?
Wow, that is a tough question man. Can I break it down by levels? I definitely think throughout high school and college it was Charlie Raffa. We always had a rivalry because of the St. Anthony’s/Chaminade connection and then the Duke/Maryland one. In the pros, Greg was actually my toughest opponent. He was an absolute beast and like I said before it’s an honor that he wanted me to replace him after he retired.