INSIDE the cloister of the lacrosse subculture, there have been better players, and maybe bigger stars. But no one has combined accomplishment, charisma and PR savvy like PR himself: Philadelphia Wings midfielder Paul Rabil. Outside the cloister, Rabil is being heralded for his crossover appeal. Think skateboarder Tony Hawk or snowboarder Shaun White, only with more tangible achievements.
Rabil is a technophile in hipster gear willing to live chat, willing to tweet (@PaulRabil) and willing to update his slick website (PaulRabil99.com), all in an effort to maximize his earning potential.
His sponsors include Red Bull, New Balance, Polk Audio and his signature brand of Warrior lacrosse gear. Combined, they could earn him millions.
He won the NCAA championship twice at Johns Hopkins. He currently plays indoors in the National Lacrosse League for the Wings, and won an NLL title with Washington in 2010. He won a Major League Lacrosse title with his outdoor team in Boston. He was the MVP in the MLL in 2009 and 2011 and has been an All-Star in both leagues.
At 27, Rabil also is a physiological marvel - sort of the Ivan Drago of his sport. He is involved with a company called mc10, which uses electronics to create a safer, more perfect athlete.
He is huge for an attacker or midfielder, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, but he has the body fat of an underwear model, a lantern jaw, a cultivated 5 o'clock shadow . . . and a voice that would chill the heartiest defenseman if he were to say something like, "I must break you."
Because he could.
Rabil will be in Philly for this weekend's NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships at the Linc. He spoke by phone from home in Baltimore last week with Daily News sports columnist Marcus Hayes.
Q The company, mc10, seems to integrate athletes and technology, with one of the emphases on concussion prevention. What is your involvement? Have you been dinged?
I sit on the sports advisory board, helping to guide the company through the lacrosse industry. Yes, one of the things they do is look to resolve the issue of concussions in lacrosse, and other contact sports. Proprietary technologies is something I live and breathe every day. But, no, I'm fortunate to have never had a concussion.
Q Certainly, you are careful with that head of yours. A 3.5 grade-point average at Hopkins is no small feat. The Paul Rabil Foundation helps kids with learning differences. Why?
I have auditory processing disorder, but I had all the resources a student could get. My sister has dyslexia, but she went through the Lab School in Washington [an elite institution for learning-disabled kids]. We were lucky. It's an issue that's really close to home.
Q So, all this talent, all these looks, and a classroom warrior, too. Little wonder you have more than 37,000 Twitter followers and more than 64,000 likes on Facebook, with a multiplatform appeal unavailable to predecessors such as Paul and Gary Gait, or Casey Powell, or Tom Marechek. Inevitable?
I benefit from the technological and entrepreneurial time we live in. I looked up to those guys. They laid all the groundwork. They never had this level of social media. They never had contracts with ESPN. And they never had this sort of attention from mainstream media.
Q They weren't born with 111-mph shots, either. You have been called the Face of Lacrosse. Admit it: Your appeal goes deeper than clever tweets.
Oh, I don't know if I'm the Face of Lacrosse. And, you know, my shot didn't just come off like crazy the first time I ever played.
I shoot every day. I train every day. I push myself to discomfort. And, I have decent size and stature relative to other offensive players. That helps.
Q It doesn't hurt the brand, either, that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been spotted wearing your signature T-shirt. Like you, the Hoodie is from Maryland, played lacrosse in college (at Wesleyan), and he's a big supporter of Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. You guys best buds?
We do see each other some, and we talk, but, ah . . . I look to him more as a mentor. I mean, seriously, if not for football, he'd be coaching lacrosse.