Cottle's challenge helped give Rabil a shot at stardom

Paul Rabil, right, with Tim Ryan, publisher of The Baltimore Sun Media Group, at The Baltimore Sun High School Athletes of the Year luncheon.

Of the 287 goals Paul Rabil has scored as a midfielder for Johns Hopkins and the Boston Cannons, 62 have been assisted. Not counted there is a big assist from a longtime rival of Rabil's: Dave Cottle.

After deciding to pursue lacrosse, Rabil transferred to DeMatha High in Hyattsville following his freshman year at Watkins Mill in Gaithersburg. He then attended a lacrosse camp where Cottle was coaching.


Rabil recalled how Cottle challenged the roughly 200 campers to take 100 shots per day.

"Everyone's like, 'Psh, no way,'" Rabil said as the keynote speaker of The Baltimore Sun High School Athletes of the Year luncheon on May 28. "And he's like, 'It's got to be a real 100 shots, counting holidays, counting blizzards. My lifetime, I've been through three or four. Counting rainstorms, thunderstorms, on vacation.' And he also said, 'On days like today, we've been out here all day long, but we've been doing ground balls and stickwork. You guys can't wait to go back to the cafeteria and eat. Well, who's sticking around to shoot 100 shots? No excuse. You have to do it every single day from here on out and I guarantee you'll get a scholarship.'


"That kind of thought resonated for me, and I applied that to my passion," Rabil continued. "Little did I know, though, that your passion can take you only as far as how relentless as you can be to achieve that goal ... you're passionate about."

Cottle, who now coaches the Chesapeake Bayhawks (1-5) of Major League Lacrosse, remembers his words to the campers very well. On Saturday, Cottle will welcome Rabil and the Cannons (3-3) to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis at 7:30 p.m.

"We talked to all those kids about putting in extra time," he said. "A plan has to be made, and you've got to put a whole lot of time into it in order to get to where you want to get to."

Cottle also recalls Rabil, saying: "I remember watching Paul play and saying, 'This kid has a chance to be special.' His athleticism, his size, and he had a drive, a will to be exceptional."

Rabil went on to prove Cottle right, and partly at Cottle's expense. Between 2005 and 2008, Rabil and Johns Hopkins beat Cottle's Maryland program three times in four meetings.

And now they are on the same field once again. At the pro level, lacrosse is still a sport where the players and coaches mix and talk frequently, on and off the field.

"In this MLL thing, Paul is on the players committee, and I think he and I both have a common interest in growing this MLL game, and I think he has a business background and understands business," Cottle said. "I think he wants this MLL to grow, and I want it to grow because the players are so good. So I bounce things off of him, and we discuss common questions and goals for the MLL."

Rabil's business acumen has made him perhaps more of a force off the field as on the field. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Rabil's endorsement deals will pay him "a couple of million dollars" over the next few years, according to his agent, making him the sport's first player to reach seven figures in income.


In his speech at The Sun luncheon, Rabil said the lesson behind Cottle's challenge was that a certain level of commitment is needed to reach one's potential.

"All the best athletes in the world are the hardest workers," Rabil said. "And that's no coincidence. And if you can develop those types of patterns, no matter the losses. Hey, I still have probably the worst shooting percentage in the MLL — God's honest truth. And I can own that because I know each day, I'm going to go out there and try to improve that. There are certain scenarios you have to work on, but you have to sort of rest on those laurels and know that I'm doing the best that I can."

Cottle deflected any link between his advice and Rabil's success as a player. ("If I did, he's been punishing me ever since," Cottle quipped.) Instead, Cottle said Rabil has become the role model for every lacrosse player.

"He has raised the stakes for what a professional lacrosse player is with his training, his work ethic, his development, his commitment back to the kids, and his business savvy," Cottle said. "Hopefully, all of our players will have the same opportunity that he has. A lot of guys get opportunities, and he's taken advantage of them. That's the part of it I respect. But it all starts off with what he does on the field. If he wasn't a good player, then people wouldn't want him. He causes matchup problems. Every game that he plays, everyone goes into it trying to stop him."

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Dodson contributed to this article.