Jimmy Dailey started thinking about playing Major League Lacrosse while he was tearing up the Division III college ranks as a standout at Stevenson University.
Dailey, a 2006 Winters Mill graduate, led the nation in points and assists as a senior with the Mustangs in 2011 and earned conference and national player of the year honors. In part because of his stellar season, Dailey found himself with the Boston Cannons as a free agent later that year. But Dailey didn't appear in a game with the Cannons.
His full-time job at a financial firm in downtown Baltimore was there, but Dailey still dreamed of making a presence in the pro game.
Boston re-signed him early in 2012 before the Chesapeake Bayhawks, based out of Annapolis, acquired Dailey in a trade just as the new season began.
Then Dailey realized his dream - he suited up as an attackman for the team's season opener against the Long Island Lizards and saw some action in the Bayhawks' 13-11 win.
"I was just thrilled to be out there," Dailey said. "Throughout college I had aspirations of playing in Major League Lacrosse, and now that it's happening, it's been great."
Major League Lacrosse has been around since 2001 and features eight teams this year. The 14-game regular season runs through July and the league's Championship Weekend is Aug. 25-26.
Games are televised throughout the season on ESPN2 and CBS Sports Network.
The Bayhawks have a home game Saturday night at 7 against Boston, the team that first signed Dailey a year ago, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. They're 6-1 and atop the MLL standings, while Boston and Denver are 5-2 and one game behind the Bayhawks.
Dailey, 23, said he'd like to be contributing more but knows how much talent lies in front of him - midfielder Kyle Dixon, the team's leading scorer, is third in the MLL with 27 points; Steven Brooks, another middie, is ninth in the league with 21 points.
"I'm playing the waiting game right now," he said. "I think I'm getting stronger and becoming a better player, but there are so many great players out there."
Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene said Dailey grew as a player in each season with the Mustangs. Dailey played through injuries during college - he went through several surgeries on his right shoulder and redshirted his sophomore year at Stevenson - but dedicated himself to the weight room and added muscle, Cantabene said, which made him a more durable and versatile player.
As a senior, Dailey scored 60 goals and handed out 58 assists in leading Stevenson to the D-III national quarterfinals. Cantabene said he knew his top player had the potential to become a pro.
"It's a great thing," said Cantabene, who saw a few bad habits in Dailey coming out of Winters Mill but watched him work through them. "Jimmy worked really hard at his game all the time. He puts the ball in great spots and sets up other players with good passes. Now he's an all-around player, he's a tough kid."
Dailey, who lives in Fell's Point, said he loves the lacrosse commute these days. Since the majority of MLL players have full-time jobs, the games are scheduled on weekends to make things easier. Instead of flying to Boston on the weekends to practice, Dailey makes the drive to Annapolis with little hassle.
"It was certainly nice to get back home," he said. "It's a little different than what I was used to. Being out of school, you don't have the fall ball and the workouts to help you. I've actually had more time to work on my game and get focused for the spring and the summer.
"But it's been great. I really couldn't ask for anything better right now."