As the Long Island Lizards prepare to start their 2010 season at Denver this Saturday, Matt Danowski took some time to sit down with BroBible and discuss some of the differences between playing lacrosse at the college level and playing lacrosse in the pros. He touched on everything from practice time to team chemistry to the ladies in the crowd, even offering up some fixes for the MLL (hint: it starts with the lines on the field).
Danowski is a 2008 Duke graduate, where he won the Tewaaraton Trophy for the nation’s most outstanding collegiate lacrosse player in 2007 as well as the Jack Turnball Award (Attackman of the Year) in 2005 and 2007. He also won the Lt. Raymond Enners Award (National Player of the Year) in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Danowski set the NCAA record for career points with 353 (former Duke and current Lizards teammate Zack Greer later tied him). Like all college lacrosse fans, Danowski will have his eye on Baltimore on Memorial Day Weekend — so we also got his picks on the Final Four. Here’s our exclusive interview with Matt Danowski.
BroBible: What is the biggest difference between playing in the MLL and playing college lacrosse?
Matt Danowski: The biggest difference is self-motivation. In the pros, you have to do stuff on your own. There are no coaches and teammates watching you and motivating you. Whereas in college, you have your teammates who go to school with you and you see them everyday.
How does balancing work and lacrosse compare to balancing school and lacrosse?
MD: The real world is much more difficult. In college, you have class, practice, class. There’s much more time to relax. With a job, you don’t get any breaks in the day to rest. I don’t know how the guys on Wall Street do it. They work 7-7, or whatever it is, and still have time to work out. For me, I work in the lacrosse industry, so I have more flexibility with balancing work and my lacrosse career.
What’s a rough salary break down for a player with lacrosse, a job, and endorsements?
MD: Nobody can play just lacrosse and get by. There’s no way to just play outdoor and survive financially. I have my job with Warrior, but I also do camps and clinics throughout the summer that make it possible to keep the income lacrosse-related. Some guys in indoor make more money, but there’s just no way to do outdoor alone. I have no idea what Paul Rabil’s making, but he has the most with endorsements through Under Armour and Maverick. Other guys start their own companies and they can get by with the help of some of their buddies.
You were 15 when the MLL debuted. Did you ever imagine playing lacrosse for money?
MD: Well, it was interesting, in high school we used to talk: “Do you think the MLL will still be around?” There were only a couple of teams that traveled around, and no one really knew about them. It was all about working for one goal with my teammates, getting to college, and then being drafted. Playing in college is definitely more fun, but it’s nice to get a little more coin in your jeans from playing lacrosse.
What do you think the MLL needs for growth?
MD: That’s widely debated and there are lots of different opinions. For me, I think the game really needs more local coverage. We’re on Long Island and the newspaper doesn’t even pick us up. Other people debate whether or not it’d be better to play in the spring or summer. For fans, lots of younger players who would go to games, do travel teams in the summer and go to camps, so they aren’t going to any games. Playing in the spring could also help identify with the college game because right now the NCAA Final Four really is the pinnacle of lacrosse. The MLL set out to make more of a free-flowing, up-and-down game, but playing with rules more similar to college would make the game more easily relatable to the fans. Kids go to watch, and they wonder what that line is on the field, and where are the lines they use? It’s the only pro sport that the field is different between college and pro.
How much time does MLL teams get to practice? How does that affect the game?
MD: Well, we still haven’t had a full-team practice. Some guys are still playing with their indoor teams. We’ve had three weekends of training camp, with one or two practices a day leading up to our first game. During the week, we practice every Wednesday, but again, not everyone is there. Zack Greer lives in Minnesota, so he won’t be at the Wednesday practices. We play this Saturday at Denver and we’ll have a shoot-around in the morning, and hopefully everyone will be there. We also go over team concepts that day, and then we’re playing that night. A direct affect on the game is team chemistry. In college, you live with your teammates, but in the pros, you only see them a couple times a week. With less practice, it takes longer to mesh on the field and learn where other guys are.
What is the female scene like in the MLL?
MD: Non-existent. Mostly, we get families and young boys that go to our games. That type of crowd just hasn’t hit us yet. Denver seems to get more, but that’s a young city with young fans. Indoor seems to get more girls, too, but maybe that’s just because they get more fans at their games.
Any Final Four predictions?
MD: Well, ‘Cuse screwed me over. I had them in the Final Four. I like Duke over UNC. UNC just doesn’t seem to be rolling like they were earlier in the year. I the Terps to get a victory over ND. Cornell over Army. And then, Virginia over Stony Brook. I like Duke to win it all, but I’m a little biased. I thought Hop was going to be the toughest hurdle, but they got past them big.