Professionally, lacrosse star Paul Rabil may be defined by the three words in the tagline of his website.
Athlete. Entrepreneur. Ambassador.
But those aren't the three words that drive Rabil, a four-time All-American at Johns Hopkins and current midfielder for Major League Lacrosse's Boston Cannons.
As the keynote speaker of The Baltimore Sun High School Athletes of the Year luncheon Wednesday, Rabil shared with the male and female athletes in attendance the three words he lives by — passion, relentless, regretless.
Rabil, 28, began the speech by encouraging the athletes to do the same, adding that his message doesn't apply only to athletics.
"It's about having passion for what you do, being relentless in your pursuit of that passion and then as you go through this, having no regret," he said.
Rarely looking at the notes he took to the lectern, Rabil broke down the speech into three sections, each dedicated to one of the three words as it applied to specific moments in his career.
"The important thing when you're delivering a message is to keep it succinct and simple," Rabil said afterward, "but effective to the way you kind of lived your life and continued to make adjustments along the way."
His anecdotes seemingly hit home with the high school athletes, starting with how his sterling lacrosse career began with him briefly quitting at the age of 12 after his first game.
But Rabil returned to the game and developed a relentlessness that showed up on the practice field. At a high school lacrosse camp Rabil attended, longtime Loyola coach and current Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle told players the key to getting a Division I scholarship was simple — take 100 shots a day. And Rabil took that to heart.
Catholic High School runner Ellie Gonzalez, the 2013 and 2014 female Athlete of the Year, didn't know much about Rabil before Wednesday. But having battled through injuries, Gonzalez appreciated his attitude.
"It spoke so perfectly to I think everybody here, but especially me," said Gonzalez, who will run cross country and track at Dartmouth next year. "Sometimes it can be hard to continue fighting for your passion, so it was really great to hear him say those words. It kind of defines what I'm trying to do now."
Ellie McNulty, a senior soccer and lacrosse player at Broadneck who will play lacrosse at Princeton next year, related to Rabil's discussion of playing without regret.
Rabil talked about losing his final game at Johns Hopkins — a 13-10 defeat to Syracuse in the 2008 NCAA title game. Though he remembers being devastated, Rabil admits he ended his college career with no regret.
After winning the state championship in lacrosse as a junior, McNulty finished both her soccer and lacrosse careers at Broadneck with losses in the sectional finals of the Maryland state tournament.
"It goes straight to my heart," McNulty said. "I can really relate to how he lost in his senior year's championship game. I unfortunately didn't end my year on a win this year like my team had wanted."
Just after arriving to the ceremony, Boy's Latin lacrosse player Shack Stanwick — this year's male athlete of the year — greeted Rabil with a big high five. Stanwick said he didn't know the lacrosse star would be the keynote speaker. But as the No. 1 boys high school player in the nation getting set to attend Rabil's alma mater in the fall, Stanwick said he'll take the three words with him to Johns Hopkins.
"He came out and said some really memorable stuff," Stanwick said. "Some stuff that helped him in his career and some stuff that I'll definitely try and use in my career that will hopefully make me a better player."
After his speech, Rabil admitted it's tough for him to talk to high schoolers, but stood by the three-word message he delivered as he joked that "regretless" isn't even a word.
Kelly Rabil said she sees the three words in her husband every day.
"He doesn't even play a sport that way, he lives his life that way. He was totally truthful and that's kind of just how he pushes himself to be the best he can be," she said. "So, it's neat for him to be able to tie it all in and I think he enjoys these type of things the most — when he can stand in front of kids he looks up to just as much as they look up to him just for being passionate about what they do."
On Wednesday, Gonzalez especially saw Rabil's genuineness.
"I don't think they could have picked a better person," she said.
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