By Christian Swezey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 18, 2008
Tim Paul nearly caught his first pass in a college lacrosse game when he was 9 years old. Paul was a ballboy at a game between Johns Hopkins and visiting North Carolina. For the occasion, he wore a North Carolina jersey.
Late in the game, a North Carolina player who was trying to evade pressure spotted Paul on the sideline wearing the jersey and readied to throw him a pass.
"I was waving my arms saying, 'No! Don't throw it to me!' " Paul said.
Tomorrow, Paul once again will be wearing a different jersey from Johns Hopkins. He will start on attack for Navy (9-3) when it faces the Blue Jays (4-5) at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. A crowd of around 15,000 is expected.
Paul, a sophomore, is tied with senior Nick Mirabito with a team-high 19 goals. He is known among his teammates for making flashy plays -- or, sometimes, for not making them.
"As a player, it's the sort of thing where you have a love-hate relationship with him," Coach Richie Meade said. "He's the guy who the coach will tell him something and he'll go on the field and say, 'Don't listen to him. I can make that play.' . . . He's the guy you love because he's not afraid. As a teacher, we have to teach him to focus and to put himself in the right position without messing with his spirit."
Paul does seem to have a good spirit. When asked to describe the goal he scored on a one-handed shot in the Patriot League tournament last year, he answered with a question. "You mean the one against Army [in the semifinals] or the one [in the championship game] against Colgate?"
"He's one of the most dynamic attackmen we've had in a while," said senior captain Jordan DiNola, a starting defenseman. "When he caught that pass against Colgate in the championship game and one-handed it into the net, after he did it he just shrugged his shoulders."
Sophomore midfielder Basil Daratsos recalled the one-handed goal against Army.
"He made it look so easy," Daratsos said. "Only later I was thinking about it, and I realized it's not easy at all to do something like that."
Paul graduated from Loyola Blakefield in Baltimore and went to the Naval Academy Prep School in 2006 as a midfielder. But he switched to attack soon after he arrived. Last year he was a midfielder with the second line until an injury to then-starting attackman Bruce Nechanicky landed him on the attack.
He likely would have played midfield this year, Meade said, except that Nechanicky suffered another season-ending knee injury in the fall.
Paul is one of four former Loyola players on Navy's roster. The others are starting midfielder Joe Lennon, a sophomore; starting goalie Tommy Phelan, a junior; and starting defensive midfielder Bobby Lennon, also a junior.
Loyola Coach Jack Crawford said he does not intentionally steer players to Navy. But he is familiar with the academy: His father, also named Jack, is a distinguished graduate of the academy. Capt. Jack Crawford survived the Battle of Midway and later worked with Adm. Hyman G. Rickover to help build the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954.
Now in college, as he did in high school, Paul sometimes tests his coaches' patience.
"What makes him special is that he's not afraid to make mistakes," Daratsos said. "A lot of the top teams have guys like that. We're more of a reserved team historically. But with Tim, we have one guy who can push the envelope."
His penchant for such plays dates from the first goal he scored in a youth game. His mother said the goal came on an underhand shot.
"And it's still my favorite shot of his," Susan Paul said. "I'll always ask him to do it for me. From what I understand, underhand shots are not really accepted in lacrosse. He did it once in a high school game and the coach screamed at him. When he did it again, even though he scored, he got yanked.
"But afterward he told me, 'Mom, that one was for you.' "