WEB EXCLUSIVE: Between tears of defeat and setback and long sighs of desperation, Rob Pannell, one of the greatest players in the history of NCAA Lacrosse, said his goodbyes to his teammates and his coaches in front of the media Saturday in a postgame press conference at Lincoln Financial Field.
"There are only positive emotions I'm feeling right now," Pannell said with tears rolling down his face. "How proud I am of the 15 other seniors besides myself and the great job they did leading this team and how we battled back in the fourth quarter.
"It's been an incredible five years at Cornell. I love Cornell more than anything. To come back and play for coach DeLuca one more year, it's just an opportunity, and to be besides my brothers, there was no other choice for me."
Pannell leaves his career the all-time NCAA leader in points scored in a career with 354, the USILA Player of the Year, a four-time All-American, and a Tewaaraton Award finalist, an award most believe he will walk away with.
Pannell also was the all-time leader in assists for the Big Red and second all-time in Ivy League history. His legacy became one that was irreplaceable to Coach DeLuca.
"I don't think I have enough time to explain that really," DeLuca said when asked what Pannell meant to the program. "But you talk about one of the greatest leaders that our program has ever seen, one of the most loyal young men, one of the hardest workers, one of the most complete players in the game, a guy who never was satisfied with where he was. He always continued to push himself and he raised the bar not only for himself but his teammates and our program."
As Pannell sat in the cold, taciturn plastic chair in a crowded room of reporters, it all began to sink in. Tears and emotions flared between questions as he came to the conclusion that his long, illustrious career in red and white was finally over.
But for one of the greatest players to play college lacrosse, his last memory wasn't leaving the field in front of more than 28,000 fans in agony; rather, it was ebullience. For Pannell he was remiss to leave behind Cornell but he was excited to start his new journey with his fellow graduates, and his 15 senior brethren.
"Every year I've ended up crying but I knew I'd be back the next year," Pannell said as he wiped away a final tear. "This is the last time I'm going to put this jersey, it's going to take a while for me to take it off; I'll tell you that much. I came back to win a national championship. . . . I'll leave Cornell with 15 new best friends and a career that I can be proud of. That's pretty much what flashed through my head, the fact that I couldn't believe it was over."