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Mikey Powell: an all-time great

Powell gives a speech to the Dome crowd while his jersey is lifted into the rafters.
Powell gives a speech to the Dome crowd while his jersey is lifted into the rafters.

Mikey Powell’s accomplishments at Syracuse are incredible. He’s the record holder in program points with 307, he won two Tewaaraton Trophies, was a four-time first-team All-American, and is the only player to ever win the Jack Turnbull Ward for the attacker of the year four times.

Powell arrived at SU with incredible skills. His older brothers Casey and Ryan already had legendary careers with the Orange. But Mikey was different and he showcased that even before his freshman season began.

“We’re doing one on ones [in a fall practice in 2000] and the whole team is there,” Brian Nee, a four-year teammate and fellow attackman of Powell, said. “And he’s going up against [senior] John Glatzel, who at the time was a returning first-team All-American. Mike was dodging against him and made him trip over the back of the goal two times in the practice. It was just like ‘wow, this kid is completely legit.’”

Powell became the program’s first player to earn First-Team All-American honors as a freshman with 30 goals and 40 assists.

Powell, throughout his career, had a “flare for the dramatic” according to Nee. In the 2001 National Championship against Princeton, the freshman notched the game-tying goal with 16 seconds left to force overtime. The Orange fell to the Tigers in overtime, but the legend of Mikey Powell would only grow.

The West Carthage, New York native led the nation with 4.94 points per contest in the 2002 season and led the ‘Cuse throughout the NCAA Tournament. SU won each postseason game by one goal, and it was Powell’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the championship against Princeton that decided it. It marked revenge for the Orange, and the first of two W.H. Brine Awards for Powell, who recorded seven points in the victory.

Powell had another over 60-point season in 2003, but Syracuse was stopped by Johns Hopkins in the National Semifinals.

In his senior campaign, with his legacy as an all-time great already cemented, Powell took it up a notch. He recorded 47 goals and 42 assists and won his second Tewaaraton.

Powell was an unreal player but “he was every bit as good a teammate as he was a player,” Nee said.

On the morning of the 2004 National Title against Navy, Powell had placed copies of a letter that he had written the previous night on the breakfast plates of every member of the Syracuse team.

The letter included the following:

“Today will be the very last time that a Syracuse Orangeman jersey will rest on my shoulder pads. This thought alone forced me to lose sleep last night and influenced me to touch my pen on some paper. As I lay on my back staring at the ceiling, I looked back on my career as an Orangeman. I did not visualize the Tewaartaon Trophy or any other personal accolades. What I saw was each and every one of you. I did not see through to the number that you were on the jersey. I did not categorize you based on the position that you play. In fact, I did not view you as a lacrosse player at all. I looked beyond that. We’re all great lacrosse players, everyone knows that. But that is not what is important.”

Then, Powell wrote about a story that he had heard from his late grandfather:

“The horse got buried in a hole. And when they tried to throw the dirt back on it, the horse would just shake it off and step up. And eventually, after he shook off all the dirt, he’s standing on top of the hole. And the horse’s name was ‘Number Nine.’ And he said if we shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up, until we reach our goal, we will have won ourselves Syracuse National Title Number Nine.”

According to Nee, the team “fed off” of that.

Tied up at 12 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Powell dodged from left to right and found Nee right outside the crease for the go-ahead goal. It would be his 157th and final assist for the Orange.

Well, a couple of minutes later Nee fed Powell on a three-on-one break for the dagger. “I’m almost absolutely certain that that’s the first time I ever gave [Mikey] an assist,” Nee said.

In the biggest stages, Mikey Powell came through. “When he wanted to take over a game there wasn’t anything that anybody could do to stop it,” Nee said.

“I think he would be the closest comparison to Gary Gait.”