On Oct. 12, the Charlotte Hounds traded faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler to the New York Lizards in exchange for midfielder Jacob Richard. Fowler will not only be saddled with the responsibility of replacing one of the game's legends in Greg Gurenlian, but the Long Island native will be coming home to play in front of family and friends. MLL Press Box spoke exclusively to Fowler about the trade and the next chapter in his pro career.
Brendan Fowler had just finished a workout when his cell phone rang.
He answered breathlessly and heard Charlotte Hounds GM Mike Cerino on the other end of the line. The only team he had ever played for professionally, Charlotte, was trading Fowler to the New York Lizards.
“Wow, I just got traded to New York,” Fowler thought after hanging up the phone.
Raised in Wantagh on Long Island, Fowler is coming home. He attended Chaminade High School, barely 15 minutes away from James M. Shuart Stadium, where Fowler attended high school championships and Lizards games as a kid.
“I’ve been going to games at Hofstra for as long as I can remember.
“One guy I always looked up to playing – he’s a little older than me – was Steve Peyser, who played at Hopkins,” Fowler said. Peyser played for the Lizards from 2009-13 and racked up 105 career goals in 75 games. “That was a guy I looked up to as I got more into lacrosse in high school and understood the game more. When I was younger, I remember going to games and just kind of casually watching, not having a total grasp on who my favorite players were. But Steve was definitely a guy I looked up to throughout high school when I got pretty serious into lacrosse and was watching him when he was at Hopkins. I really looked up to him because he was just a do-it-all middie, he could faceoff, score at will and play defense. He was just an all-around stud.”
Not only is the trade a homecoming for him, but he will be filling the shoes of the most successful faceoff specialist in the history of the league, Greg Gurenlian. A tall order for any player, but Fowler is uniquely qualified to take the place of “The Beast” as he is a protégé of Gurenlian and works with him at The Faceoff Academy.
“I’m just going to try to be the best version of who I am,” Fowler said. “I think me and Greg are similar in ways, but I think what makes us unique is a little different and I’m just going to try to be the best version of me. I think if I could have as much success in New York as Greg did, I will be very happy with my performance. No doubt about that. He’s been a mentor for me, especially in my first few years in the league where he helped me a ton. It is pretty awesome to be filling in his shoes.
“As soon as I heard I was going, I texted him (Gurenlian) and he was all excited. It was cool. I think I told my parents first and then I texted him right after.”
If you told anyone from Chaminade High School that Fowler would come back to New York to play for one of the local pro teams, they might have guessed the Jets or the Giants first. An all-league linebacker at Chaminade, Fowler was a recruited walk-on for football at Duke and admits that football was his first love growing up. But one of his lacrosse coaches at Chaminade, James Regan, was friends with Duke lacrosse coach John Danowski and urged Fowler to try out for lacrosse, as well.
“I was like, ‘You’re out of your mind. There’s no way I can do both.’ Next thing you know, I’m doing both.”
It was at Duke that Fowler truly fell in love with lacrosse. He won more than 600 faceoffs in his junior and senior season combined and led Duke to consecutive National Championships in 2013 and 2014. He started his career in Durham as a football player, and left a lacrosse player.
North Carolina became like a second home for Fowler after the Hounds selected him 13th overall in the 2014 Draft. He’s made a lot of friends in the area and frequently makes the two-hour drive from Charlotte to Durham to visit his two brothers, Danny and Jack, who both followed his footsteps and play for Danowski at Duke.
“Charlotte has been great the past couple years,” Fowler said. “Our organization has been awesome. I have some close friends and other great people I’ve met that are in the area. There are a lot of kids I’ve built strong relationships with through coaching the Faceoff Academy in the area. So, I definitely really have a strong connection with North Carolina and I think I always will.”
Now, Fowler will play for just his second team in his fifth year in MLL. In addition to dealing with the expectations of a new team, he will also face the expectations inherent with New York. They boast one of the most talented rosters in the league with superstar talents in Paul Rabil, Rob Pannell and Joe Walters, and they narrowly missed the postseason in 2017 – a fate dealt to them on the final day of the regular season.
Aside from the on-field expectations, Fowler will also be competing at the box office. With new teammates like Steve DeNapoli (Hewlett), Will Manny (Massapequa), Pannell (Smithtown) and Kevin Unterstein (Shoreham) all hailing from Long Island, tickets for family members and friends will be in high demand.
“I’m sure there will be a battle over tickets every week. I’ll probably dig into my own pocket for a couple of people to come to games, but it’ll be fun. I’m excited. My parents will get to watch. They haven’t gotten to watch me play much at all since college, so it’ll be cool for them to come watch some games.”