He wears eye black for every game, but swears he isn’t superstitious.
“I try to stay away from being superstitious,” said sophomore midfielder Justin Redd. “I don’t buy into that.”
For Redd, the pads, the uniform, and even the eye black are merely parts of the lacrosse experience. At the same time, they’re also symbols of a realized dream.
“I’m just a guy who loves lacrosse,” he noted. “I’m still like a kid in the fact that I’m just excited to be a college lacrosse player.”
His obsession with lacrosse began in middle school. While Redd was originally interested in baseball, he soon tuned in to the local lax craze. When he first started, the sophomore saw most of his time on the area’s lowest level club team, which he remembers fondly despite the lack of quality play.
“That was probably the best thing for me,” noted Redd. “Because I got to play the whole time and learn.”
Redd quickly picked up the necessary skills, though, moving up to the B-level team the next year, and his high school team after that. As a junior, he helped the Gilman School to league victory in the MIAA championships.
Redd’s true breakthrough, however, came in his senior year when he finally started at midfield. He earned several local accolades for his outstanding play including all-city and all-county selections, and also caught the eye of several college coaches. Besides being courted by Notre Dame and Hopkins, Redd also impressed Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni.
“We saw him at a summer camp,” Tambroni recalled. “He was athletic and exciting with a ball and a stick, which is something we haven’t had here in a long time.”
As for Redd, while the focus of his college search was academics, team chemistry was another must.
“I chose Cornell because I felt the most comfortable with the players. They showed a lot of interest in me,” he said. “The guys on the team were the kind of guys that I wanted to be teammates with.”
Tambroni was ecstatic about Redd’s decision.
“We had a great relationship with him,” said Tambroni. “[We] felt great about him and his family, and were certainly extremely excited when he made the decision to come here to Cornell because he’s really made a huge impact in our offense.”
Redd’s rookie season began slowly, but he quickly caught fire with a six-point outburst against then-No. 1 Syracuse. As the season went on, the coaching staff and Redd began to trust each other more and more.
“Towards the end of the year — even in the Brown game — we put the ball in his stick with a minute and a half left,” said Tambroni. “That’s how much confidence we had in Justin as a freshman.”
“There were definitely times when they told me, ‘you’ve got to step up right now and take the game in your hands,'” said Redd. “Coach T showed a lot of confidence in me, too, and gave me the ball at crucial times. Sometimes with good results, sometimes not.”
The good seemed to outweigh the bad, however, as Redd and the team ran up a nine-game winning streak and grabbed an at-large NCAA tournament bid. Overall, Redd finished the 2002 season in third place for team scoring with 20 points, including 11 assists. His efforts also earned him the status of an All-America honorable mention, after being selected to Inside Lacrosse magazine’s preseason team.
For Redd, the honors and success just seem to fit in with the 2002 storybook season.
“I was just in such awe of how great it felt to be a college lacrosse player. We had a nine-game winning streak, we went to the second round of the tournament — I have a lot of great memories from last year.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga