The lacrosse game between Georgetown and Syracuse earlier this month had been over for about 40 minutes, yet Syracuse senior attackman Michael Powell remained on the field, still in his uniform, signing autographs. Never mind that the game was at Georgetown and that some of the children who approached him were wearing Georgetown T-shirts.
Powell is used to the attention. It is a product of his being a three-time first-team all-American, the three-time attackman of the year and the all-time leading scorer at Syracuse. But Powell, through his showmanship and flair for no-look, behind-the-back passes and shots, also is something rare in the close-knit world of lacrosse: He has managed to transcend the game.
In a game against Massachusetts in late April, Powell did a frontal flip and then took a shot. It is a move he has been able to pull off since he was a child. Though he missed the shot, the move landed him on ESPN and in Sports Illustrated.
"I think it gave lacrosse some national exposure," he said. "I wanted to show kids that maybe lacrosse isn't set in stone. Maybe players can go out there and do things that haven't been done. Sort of like Tony Hawk, he pushed the envelope with skateboarding. He did moves no one had thought about."
Powell has 45 goals and 34 assists this year and 297 points in his career for No. 4 Syracuse (13-2) entering its NCAA semifinal against No. 1 Johns Hopkins (13-1) on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The other semifinal pits No. 6 Princeton (11-3) against No. 2 Navy (13-2).
"He has really been an ambassador for the sport," Syracuse Coach John Desko said. "People who have never seen a game will come just to watch him. . . . Roy Simmons, my coach at Syracuse, used to say that lacrosse needs heroes. Well, Michael is one of those heroes."
Teammates and fans are not the only ones who get caught up watching Powell. Syracuse senior midfielder Kevin Dougherty played at Hofstra in 2001 and recalled the pregame talk before his team faced Powell and the Orange in an NCAA quarterfinal.
"Our most important thing was not to get too caught up in watching him play," Dougherty said. "As a player, he definitely has that excitement. You never know what he is going to try to do. . . . I see it now as his teammate. I'm looking forward to seeing him with the ball a little more than he had in the first game [against Hopkins], not to put any pressure on him. But I don't think you could put any more pressure on him than there already is."
That pressure started well before Powell arrived at Syracuse. His older brothers, Casey and Ryan, each played there and were tied as the school's all-time leading scorers with 287 points. Michael Powell first was asked questions about whether he would surpass their scoring total early in his freshman year.
Syracuse also has been to 22 straight final fours. Its fans make hotel reservations for Memorial Day a year in advance and buy tickets as soon as they go on sale. Powell has helped the Orange to the semifinals in each of his four years -- barely. The Orange came back from a four-goal deficit to beat Dougherty's Hofstra team in 2001, defeated Duke by a goal in 2002 and defeated Georgetown in the final seconds last Sunday.
So maybe it's not a surprise that Desko said Powell's No. 22 jersey, the one previously worn by his brothers and all-Americans Charlie Lockwood and Gary Gait and the one that is on sale in Syracuse and on the Internet, may not be used again for a while.
"We might give it to someone in the incoming [freshman] class," Desko said. "Or we might save it, for somebody in the future."