It started with a phone call between old friends.

Duke lacrosse coach John Danowski had heard that a faceoff guy from Chaminade High School on Long Island was enrolling in the fall, but that was all he knew. He hadn't scouted him or spoken to him.

Danowski called Jack Moran, the longtime Chaminade coach, to find out whether it was true.

Their conversation three years ago set into motion a process that culminated Monday at Lincoln Financial Field with Duke's national championship victory over Syracuse.

The walk-on they discussed, Brendan Fowler, was named the tournament's most outstanding player after dominating faceoffs in a historic way.

"We had nothing to do with recruiting Brendan, getting him into the school. Everything was on his own," Danowski said. "Those stories don't happen too often."

Fowler simply wouldn't allow Syracuse to gain possession for a long stretch. The junior won seven of eight faceoffs in the second quarter and all seven in the third. He won 13 straight at one point.

Duke used the possession edge to turn a 5-0 deficit in the second period into a 10-7 lead after three.

"I told John [Danowski] after the game to buy his faceoff guy a big steak because he deserved one," Syracuse coach John Desko said.

Danowski had never heard from Fowler because the player was focused on football, a sport his father, John, had played at Villanova. Brendan was a football team walk-on at Duke.

At 6 feet and 215 pounds, with shoulder-length hair and a face nearly coated in eye-black, Fowler looks like the reserve linebacker he is for the Blue Devils.

But this season, the former high school wrestler blossomed into a first-team all-American in lacrosse, winning Atlantic Coast Conference defensive-player-of-the-year honors. Fowler set an NCAA single-season record for faceoff wins with 339. He went 20 for 28 against Syracuse and had a game-high 14 ground balls.

"Football and wrestling definitely helped me. Facing off is obviously very physical," Fowler said. "The balance you have to have in wrestling helps with faceoffs, kind of the moving around you do."

Fowler missed most of the football season after he suffered a broken collarbone playing lacrosse last year. He was hurt in a game against Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Contact Tim McManus at tmcmanus@philly.com. Follow on Twitter @ByTimMcManus.