If Major League Lacrosse had an award for the most dedicated rookie, Ryan Drenner would be a strong contender.
The Westminster High graduate and Florida Launch attackman was told by his coach that he could skip a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., so he could fly to Puerto Rico for a vacation with college teammates from Towson University.
"I was like, 'You can miss the game,'" Launch coach Tom Mariano said. "He was like, 'No way.'"
Instead, Denner drove about six hours to Charlotte in time for practice Friday night then returned to Baltimore after the game to catch an 8 a.m. flight Sunday.
"There was no way to get him on a flight from Charlotte to BWI after the game, so he drove," Mariano said. "I love his commitment. He will do whatever it takes so he can play. I think that just speaks to his character."
Drenner, the Times Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year in 2013, was not concerned about a lack of shut-eye.
"I had to drive throughout the night," Drenner said. "I could sleep on the flight."
The Launch, based in Boca Raton, Fla., wants Drenner in the lineup as often as possible, considering the impact he has made early in the season.
The 6-foot, 185-pound standout scored the game-tying goal in his first game as a pro June 10 against the New York Lizards in the final seconds of regulation.
Florida won 15-14 in overtime as Denner totaled three goals and an assist.
"He can handle the pressure," Mariano said. "We give him the ball at the end of the game. He is going up against a guy (defender Kyle Sweeney) who has been an MLL All-Star, and he has no problem going to the cage and scoring a goal. He wants to take the shots at the big moments. It's been impressive watching him make play after play."
Playing in the MLL has been a huge adjustment for Drenner, who had a goal and assist in his second game — a 19-16 victory over the Atlanta Blaze on June 17.
The game is much faster and higher scoring than college, but he loves it that way. Drenner praised his college team for its strong defense.
"In my entire life, I don't think I have been in a game where 14 goals were scored against a team that I was playing for," Drenner said. "Then last week, we had 14 goals scored against us in the first half. It's a lot of fun for me. You get a lot of touches. There is a (60-second) shot clock."
The MLL, a semi-professional league, was founded in 1999 (its inaugural season was 2001; the closest team is the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bayhawks) and has nine teams. The Launch began as an expansion team in 2014. They were 5-4 and in third place in the MLL standings after last weekend.
The Launch chose Drenner with the 28th pick in the MLL Collegiate Draft, which took place during the NCAA's final four weekend in late May.
Drenner said his biggest fear was being accepted by his new teammates.
"I had nerves coming in," he said. "I was a guy coming in from Towson. We don't really get as much recognition as the bigger-named schools. I didn't know how the veteran guys on the squad were going to take me in and react to what I was doing on the field. But they have put a lot of trust (in me)."
Mariano has plenty of confidence in Drenner, the Colonial Athletic Association Co-Player of the Year in 2016, who this past season helped Towson reach its first NCAA tournament semifinal appearance since 2001 by leading the team in scoring (30 goals, 29 assists).
Drenner earned NCAA All-Tournament team honors this season.
The coach raves about Drenner's skills.
"He was the guy who was directing the traffic and the orchestrator at Towson," the coach said. "I felt a lot of times when they needed a big play, he would come up with one. You could tell he had that tenacious drive to be great. We felt that would translate well to the pros. It's showing that it has."
Drenner, who lives in an apartment in Towson with his girlfriend and 8-month-old son, hopes his strong start leads to a successful professional career.
"I definitely want to stay in the league as long as possible," Drenner said. "Right now, I am just trying to play lacrosse and build a brand and put my name out there in the lacrosse world."
Westminster High coach Steve DeFeo thinks Drenner, who helped the Owls to a Class 4A-3A state championship in 2013, is on his way.
"He has excellent vision of the field, is deceivingly fast and has a no-quit attitude," DeFeo said. "He is very balanced with goals and assists. He is a very unselfish player, and his progression as a player has been unreal."