In the world of sports, competitive athletes can work their entire lives to achieve greatness only to have that dream taken away from them in a split second.
During his junior year at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2019, Patrick Shoemay tore his ACL. His goal of becoming an NCAA champion now seemed impossible. It seemed even more impossible once COVID-19 canceled the following season. But, if there’s another unique trait about competitive athletes, it’s that they never give up.
After being sidelined by injury and COVID-19 for nearly two years, Shoemay was determined to win an NCAA Championship with his teammates by giving it one last college try at RIT.
Not only did Shoemay end up winning the Division III NCAA Championship in 2021 with the Tigers, but it helped pad his collegiate resume that would help earn him a first round selection in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft (9th overall to the San Diego Seals). His stellar Jr. lacrosse career with the Burnaby Lakers and New Westminster Salmonbellies also helped him in the draft.
Having played so much lacrosse in Rochester and British Columbia, Canada, Shoemay was more than ready to start a career in a city where the weather is warm and sunny for most of the year rather than rainy, cold, or unpredictable. Playing for a team with championship potential and a roster full of NLL legends was a good draw too.“I was super excited,” Shoemay said. “I knew how fortunate I was to be picked up by such a good team with great ownership and coaches across the board.”
“As soon as I got to training camp, I knew that [San Diego] was where I wanted to be. I felt that it would be a great fit; it felt good to be playing; it felt good to be around the guys.”
Shoemay had always been one of his teams’ best defensemen. But, as soon as he came into the NLL, he realized just how talented professional defensemen were and how many of them were in the league.
Training alongside seasoned veterans such as Brodie Merrill and Cam Holding can help prepare you for many situations, but once you get in the trenches with some of the league’s best defenders, you realize just how skilled you have to be to play in the NLL.
“It was such a humbling experience playing in the NLL,” Shoemay said. “You realize quickly that guys can do things I couldn’t even imagine. I had played against really good players growing up, but I had never played against an entire collection of the best lacrosse players in the world.”
“Seeing those veterans play – it was a level of play that I had never really had exposure to. I had never even played in the WLA before this past year – I had always played against kids my age. So, being in the NLL and watching guys like Brodie [Merrill], Zack Greer, and Dane Dobbie, it’s a very different level [of play]. You can see how much work they put into their craft and how much it means to them. That helped me stay focused on the end goal and realize how hard you have to work to get those results.”
As difficult and rigorous as it is to adjust to the NLL’s level of play for many rookies, including, at times, Shoemay, he was ready and eager to take the challenge head-on. If there was an offensive move he wanted to learn to stop, he would ask teammates that could help him. If the Seals were going to be matched up against an offensive juggernaut, Shoemay would ask what the best way to stop him was.
Shoemay understood that while the Seals veterans were often the guys being talked about, the team wasn’t going to reach the heights of success they were hoping to get to if up-and-comers like himself weren’t going to step up.
“If you ask questions and show interest in what other guys are doing and how other guys have found success, guys love talking about that, and they’ll help you out,” Shoemay said. “I also had some of the younger guys like Grayson Bradley and Drew Belgrave – two B.C. guys – that helped me a lot.”
Every bit of information he took from his teammates to add to his game paid off. Over 17 games last NLL season. Shoemay finished as 1 of 3 rookie defensemen to record 90+ loose balls and 20+ caused turnovers. He continued to improve when the games mattered the most (in the postseason). During the playoffs, he scored four goals, which was more than any other defenseman, and he led all rookie defensemen with 15 loose balls and two caused turnovers.
After his 2019 potentially career-changing injury, no one truly knew what Shoemay’s game would look like. As a rookie in the NLL, Shoemay continued to take full advantage of his 2nd-chance to play the sport he loves.
This coming season could be the year that Shoemay adds another championship banner to his catalog, but it will require another impressive year from him to help his team win it all. He couldn’t be more up for that challenge.
By Adam Levi