AJ Shannon Of The Edmonton Rush

AJ Shannon

This week on “Ask The Pro’s” we had the chance to speak to AJ Shannon of the Edmonton Rush.  I know you’ve likely read me commenting each week on how so many Pro’s in the NLL are great guys, very professional, etc.  But it is true, and you can throw AJ in that same category.  I’ve known AJ and his family for a number of years, dating back to his Bantam lacrosse years here in Whitby.  He has always taken the time to say hi, and share a few words with anyone that wishes to talk lacrosse.

AJ started his career in Buffalo and last year was traded to Edmonton.  A devastating knee injury shelfed him for almost the entire season last year, but his will to compete, and his hard work, gave him a new lease on the game.  Now he is back and performing at his pre-injury level with the Rush.  Another in the long list of good guys of the game, and one who certainly knows how to put the ball in the net; AJ Shannon.  Enjoy….   

GM: Describe your playing days growing up as a kid in Whitby.

AS: I grew up playing lacrosse under the Bishop regime. He had the biggest impact on my lacrosse career, besides my parents, and I’m forever thankful for it.

GM: You played with many great players growing up that are now in the NLL. Why do you believe so many of you made it?

AS: Whitby is a lacrosse hotbed, and fortunately we’ve been blessed with great coaches along the way. Also, we played religiously throughout the summer; lacrosse was our primary focus which translates to success on the floor.

GM: You won 2 Minto Cups (1997, 1999) with Whitby. What do you remember most about those wins?

AS: How much of a team effort it took to win. Everyone had to be on the same page and make social sacrifices to win. Bishop instilled this kind of work effort in us, so it almost seemed like second nature. Also, we were fortunate to play in front of the home crowd, which was an awesome experience.

GM: Describe your time attending college in Virginia.

AS: It could probably be described as the best four years of my life. It was a great experience, I would recommend it any young lacrosse player entertaining the idea of attending an American college. To top it off, we won the National Championship my senior year, in front of 37,000 people at Baltimore Stadium. It was a surreal moment, and my most cherished championship.

GM: What would you say to kids thinking of that same route that you took?

AS: Keep your grades up. The primary reason why Canadian kids don’t make it down there is because of their grades. Also, it is a significant commitment, that means cutting back on your social life a bit and working on your game. More kids are playing the game, and unfortunately, the scholarship quota remains the same, which means less money to go around. So in order to make it down there, you have to do something better than your fellow peers.

GM: You had a few pretty good years in Buffalo before getting traded to Edmonton last season. Was that surprising to you or somewhat expected?

AS: It was expected. I enjoyed my time in Buffalo, they were great teams, but ultimately I knew in order for me to reach my offensive potential, I would have to leave Buffalo. No one likes to be traded, but it was a fresh start with a great organization. So I was pretty happy about the whole ordeal.

GM: Describe the knee injury, and your long road back to getting on the floor.

AS: It was pretty devastating. Basically your whole outlook on life changes, it is really a humbling experience, which I would really not want to experience again. The rehab is a test of your resolve and mental fortitude. There was definitely some moments along the way that I didn’t believe I would get back to being what I was before my injuries. However, I think I had many positive things that I took away from it.

GM: So there is a renewed energy in Edmonton this season and although 0-3 at this point, is there an optimistic feeling that better days are ahead?

AS: The team is still optimistic, you really can’t afford to get to down because the season is so short. We have the talent and leadership; it’s just the little mental mistakes that are killing us right now. I think offensively, it takes a while for people to get used to each other, so hopefully we can overcome these speed bumps and get our first win against Portland this weekend.

GM: What do you find to be the greatest part of playing Pro Lacrosse, and at the same time, what is the least pleasing?

AS: The greatest part is going out there and competing every week. I still love playing the game. No too many people get the chance to play a pro sport, so you make the most of it while you still can. Also, playing in front of a packed house is a pretty neat feeling. The least pleasing part is the travel. It can take its toll on you after a while.

Fun Questions

GM: Your favorite place to play (not including Rexall Place)….

AS: Air Canada Center. Love playing in front of friends and family.

GM: The toughest goalie you’ve played against is…

AS: Box – Anthony Cosmo and probably Chugger (Steve Dietrich)
Field – Tillman Johnson and Greg Cattrano

GM: If you could go back and change anything lacrosse related, would you and what would it be?

AS: We lost in 2OT (NCAA semi-finals) to Syracuse in 2002, which ultimately, was the championship game because Princeton, who was awaiting the winner, was not much of a match. Felt like it was our day to win and we just came up short.
And the Champions Cup in 2004 when we lost a tough game to Calgary, I felt like we didn’t play our best game and that kind of loss sticks with you for a while.

GM: Who is the best player you’ve ever played with?

AS: Tough to name one so I will have to go with three guys here: John Tavares, John Grant and Casey Powell.

GM: If we let you sit and interview anyone in history, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?

AS: A little off the beaten path but I would have to say Mao Zedong.

“How could you cause so much pain, suffering and ultimately death, upon the people of China in order to satisfy his ideological pursuit of the tenets of communism?

GM: AJ, thanks for your time.

AS: Thank you.

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