I think it shows how much untapped potential people have in general.
2012 – Team Captain. Played in Eight games Team record 7-6
2011 – Played in One game Team record 7-7
2010 – Played in One game Team record 9-5
2009 – Walk-on. Made the Team. Did not play in any games. Team record 7-7
Neil’s dad went to Georgetown University. Neil dreamed of doing the same. He loved the environment, location, academics and lacrosse team. Neil started playing lacrosse as a boy. But injuries kept him from his high school junior year of Lacrosse. Georgetown did not offer Neil a scholarship. He considered other schools but none surpassed his love of Georgetown. So he decided to walk-on.
WillofaChampion: What has been one of your greatest challenges as a walk-on?
Neil: First, getting into Georgetown. Then not knowing the skill and athletic ability of the other players trying out for the team. I worked very hard to get ready for those two weeks. Being average isn’t good enough. Walk-ons have to stand-out because the coaches are focused on the scholarship players.
WillofaChampion: Have you had to do the “extra” to earn your success? Extra time practicing, running, lifting, etc?
Neil: I was very happy to make the team. But my goal wasn’t to just be on the team. I believed I had untapped potential. My goal was to play. Other people thought I should just be happy to be on the team. But all four years I was motivated to push my team-mates and myself to be the best I can be. I put in extra hours in the weight-room, on the track, all those things to be a better athlete.
WillofaChampion: Did you have to be more mentally tough as a walk-on compared to a scholarship player?
Neil: Yes. When you show up to camp everyone else is on the team, they have a spot. They’re also getting money to go to school, you’re not. Even though I established myself that first year I still always felt I had to earn the respect of my team-mates by living up to my reputation as a hard working player willing to scrap. I never took a day off. I played every day to make my team better and better myself.
WillofaChampion: How did your teammates receive you?
Neil: They received me really well; even the guys that were seniors when I was a freshman kind of rooted for me to make the team. My lacrosse team-mates became my best friends.
WillofaChampion: How did your coaches receive you?
Neil: They treated me really well. They loved my intensity, enthusiasm, and work ethic. I could be used to set an example for the younger guys.
WillofaChampion: Who did you talk with to encourage you during challenging times?
Neil: My sophomore and junior year I only played one game each season. I worked hard, but when the starters came out of the game the coaches wanted to see the younger guys. That was tough. My freshman year it was okay that I didn’t play because I was so excited to be on the team. But I wanted more my sophomore and junior years. My team-mates who are also my best-friends and family encouraged me to keep working hard to help the team and get better. They were very supportive. My senior year I played in half the games and was a team captain. The hard work paid off.
WillofaChampion: Why did you persevere through your sophomore and junior years?
Neil: I didn’t want to let my family and friends down. Our team’s camaraderie was based on our work. We all wanted to make our team great. Our individual goals were different but that didn’t matter. One guy works to be an All-American while I worked for a role position. That doesn’t matter. What unified us was the work to achieve those goals.
WillofaChampion: Why do you think you’ve made it when other walk-ons do not?
Neil: I think it comes down to mental and physical preparation. You have to push yourself physically and mentally each day. You have to keep expanding your limits each day. It is a long process. You have to do it each day.
WillofaChampion: How did you find out you were team captain?
Neil: Our team votes in the fall. I was elected. I was surprised because I didn’t play a lot or score a lot of goals. But I know it was because my team-mates respected me. I was honored. My team-mates loved my excitement and enthusiasm that I brought to practice every day. It is a great feeling to know I earned that level of respect from great players that are extremely talented and hard working. I was surprised because captains are usually offensive leaders. My family was very excited. I stayed focused and worked even harder.
WillofaChampion: What impact has following your dream and earning it had on the rest of your life?
Neil: I think it shows how much untapped potential people have in general. I learned that physical and mental preparation and perseverance will get you further in life. Now I know if I go after something with that same mental and physical preparation it will take me a long way.
WillofaChampion: What advice do you have for other athletes considering walking-on?
Neil: First, go to the school you want to go to. But don’t pick a school solely for a sport. If it is a school that plays a high level of competition don’t have any regrets; train as hard as you can mentally and physically and give it your all. If you give it your all and it doesn’t work out, you won’t have any regrets. Achieve the highest level of competition you can at the sport you love.
Interview: August 2012