Every athlete as a kid dreams of playing professionally in their respective sport. Everyone wants to be drafted to the NFL or be a lottery pick in the NBA.
But when Ryan Creighton and Mark McNeill, who is also a wide receiver on the football team, roomed together early in their careers as North Carolina men’s lacrosse players, the possibility of being drafted by a team to play Major League Lacrosse wasn’t even a thought.
“We never really had a conversation about it,” Creighton said.
“Actually, we had more conversations about how he was going to get drafted (to the NFL) and how I was going to be his agent/manager in the NFL.”
Now, just weeks before their final season playing lacrosse for the Tar Heels, McNeill, Creighton and face-off specialist R.G. Keenan were selections in the MLL draft last Friday and will be given the opportunity to extend their careers at season’s end.
But then again, that’s at season’s end.
“It’s a little weird getting picked before the season,” Creighton said.
“All my focus is on this year especially it being my senior year.”
Creighton, a preseason third team All-American according to Inside Lacrosse, will lead the Tar Heels as a captain in their campaign to redeem an NCAA quarterfinal loss at the hands of Denver.
Their season starts Feb. 9 when they host Furman.
That focus didn’t keep Creighton from following the draft on Friday night though. He told himself that he would track the draft for the first few rounds to see how it panned out.
But before he had the chance to get through watching, Keenan asked Creighton to go with him to a teammate’s house.
“I said, ‘Yeah, let me just see this last pick,’” Creighton said. “It happened to be Florida’s pick.”
With the 12th selection in the MLL draft, expansion team the Florida Launch picked Creighton in the same spot as former Tar Heel captain Marcus Holman. He was the first Tar Heel off the board.
Keenan and McNeill were picked later in the draft as the 49th and 50th overall selections and didn’t follow the draft nearly as closely as Creighton.
In fact, McNeill didn’t follow the draft at all.
“I found out late that night,” McNeill said. “One of my friends from back home texted me and said, ‘You got picked up by the Chesapeake Bayhawks.”
The 2013 MLL Champions selected McNeill, but McNeill admitted he didn’t have any expectations going into the draft and wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of getting drafted.
“I don’t know about Ryan and R.G., but I never would have thought about the MLL,” McNeill said.
“Especially when you’re just out there in high school with your friends trying to have fun.”
Keenan, who was picked up one slot before McNeill, will be taking his specialist talents to the Ohio Machine, where he will get a chance to yet again play alongside UNC career-points record holder Holman.
By then Keenan may have a record or two of his own being within site of records in both groundballs and face-offs.
Despite the surprise and excitement UNC’s three seniors experienced Friday, it is obvious that only one thing mattered to those Tar Heels in their final collegiate season, and it had nothing to do with their career after UNC.
“I’m absolutely focused on the upcoming season. That’s my main priority,” Keenan said.
“It’s all about winning a championship.”
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