March 17, 2004

Driven to Succeed

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Like most collegiate lacrosse players, senior defenseman Tim DeBlois wants nothing more than to be playing lacrosse on Memorial Day weekend — the date of the annual NCAA men’s lacrosse finals. Still, while most players dream of proving themselves, hoisting the championship trophy, and celebrating with the team, DeBlois is different. DeBlois’ reasons center around love and fear.

“Yeah, I want to win a national championship,” he said, “but the major reason I want to do it is so I can have as many games as I can. It’s scary — I just don’t want it to end. I’m going to miss playing with all these guys.”

But DeBlois’ love affair with lacrosse is a winding story, starting with basketball — the DeBlois family game. While his brother plays collegiate ball, things took a different path for the Cornell senior, starting in middle school.

“All my close friends played basketball, but in the spring they played lacrosse, and in eighth grade — I had never picked up a stick — they needed a defenseman,” DeBlois said. “When you’re in middle school, you always find the fat kid to play sports because he’s big — back then I was that fat kid.”

DeBlois continued both sports into high school, earning three varsity letters for basketball while gradually becoming one of Central New York’s best high school lacrosse players. Senior year, All-American status, came to the defenseman. So did college recruiters, primarily from Princeton and Cornell.

“[Coach Petramala] and Coach Tambroni came to dinner at my house and said ‘would you rather sit at a table that’s been set already, or would you rather set the table for yourself?'” DeBlois recalled. “I was the kind of person who wanted to set the table.”

Dinner settled things for DeBlois, who has since become a pillar for Cornell lacrosse, and a solid longstick defender. Still, there have been challenges and setbacks over his four years, including marking some of the country’s best attackmen. This list includes Virginia’s John Christmas during the team’s 2002 NCAA tournament run. Last year, DeBlois helped anchor a defense that led the team to its first Ivy title in years, only to see the conference’s NCAA bid be given to Dartmouth in a drawing when the Green, Red, and Tigers finished even.

Then there was the Colgate scrimmage this spring. While DeBlois had been able to rely on veterans for defensive leadership in the past, he was now one of the team’s captains, and responsible for not only his own play but also the play of his teammates.

“I think he struggled a little bit,” Tambroni said. “He was just so good at his own task that he needed to learn how to be a leader of the entire defense.”

“The next day we came back and we sat here in the film room, and coach got after a couple guys,” DeBlois said. “He got after me … he tore into us.”

While he could have turned against his coach, DeBlois turned to himself instead, working to improve his play.

“I was so ashamed of how I looked on film,” he admitted. “We kind of drew a line in the sand as a defense and a team, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

But that’s something Tambroni’s always known about DeBlois.

“He’s driven, and he’s just a success at everything he does,” Tambroni said. “He’s just extremely driven — he’s got the second highest GPA on the team, and on the lacrosse field he’s one of the most athletic players … he’s just driven.”

Archived article by Matt Janiga