Features | 1/13/2012 2:57:54 PM | Chris Ryndak
| Jeff Cornwall (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
ROOKIE JEFF CORNWALL WILL BE JUGGLING TRAVEL & SCHOOL ALL SEASON LONG
A typical college student finds a job on or near campus to make a few extra bucks between classes. Jeff Cornwall is not a typical college student.
Cornwall attends Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and has been traveling across the continent to get to work each week. His job? To play defense for the Buffalo Bandits.
The Bandits selected the 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-handed defenseman from Coquitlam, B.C. in the second round of the 2011 draft. He says the commitment the team has made to him makes the long commute that much easier.
“At first I was a little nervous because going across the country is a big commitment every weekend. However, at the end of the day, I wanted to play where a team wanted me to play,” Cornwall said. “Buffalo showed that they were interested in having me play out there and that's the most important thing to me.”
A mathematics major, Cornwall says he has about five or six semesters left and plans on taking classes during the summer as well. This semester, however, he said he's taking a lighter load than usual.
“My semester shouldn't be too difficult because my main focus is on lacrosse,” he said. “Although I do need to keep pressing forward with my schooling because I would like to get that done as soon as possible, too.”
With the Bandits, Cornwall joins Ian Llord, Billy Dee Smith and Jimmy Purves on the left-side defense. While he feels that he can make an immediate impact, he is going to put his trust in the coaching staff to field the best possible lineup.
“From a sense of defending, I feel that every defender on our team can play, so whether it's me in the game or another defender in the game, I'm confident that the team -- which is ultimately what the whole goal is right here -- we'll do great or they'll be in a position to win,” he said.
Cornwall may not be counted on to score many goals, but he's still going to try and set a tempo and get the ball to the team's most skilled players up top.
“I'll inject my speed into the game. I'm really looking forward to getting the ball up the floor – maybe not taking a shot with it – but pushing the ball up the floor to the offensive players,” he said.
In regards to adjusting to the speed of the NLL, Cornwall explained that he's going to have to harness his physical game because as a player, he can't just run at someone and try to hit him.
“There just has to be some sort of control within the reckless abandon that you take to the game. You can't just go out 110 percent at a guy and expect to strip him. Every player in league is skilled. There's no fish out there, I guess you could say,” Cornwall said.
“It's really difficult in the sense that you have to be a mentally strong defender as well as a physically strong defender because if any area of your game is lacking, you will get beat – often. You have to stay on top of your game both in the focus and the physical department.”
The rookie defenseman will make his debut Saturday night when the Bandits host the Toronto Rock at 7:30 p.m. at the First Niagara Center. He's excited to get the first game jitters out of the way and has had some help preparing from someone very close to him.
Cornwall's brother Travis is a forward on the Calgary Roughnecks and when Travis returned home from a game in Toronto last weekend, they were able to talk about the atmosphere and intensity that comes with a professional lacrosse game.
“He had nothing but good things to say about it so it helped a little bit with calming nerves,” Cornwall said. “Still, I haven't been out there yet and I'm quite excited to get a better feel for the game because in practice, you can only simulate game situations to a point.”
Travis helped steer Cornwall's lacrosse career as well. Some sound advice from his brother aided Cornwall in making his Junior ‘A’ team as a 16 year old.
“I used to be a goal scorer but he told me there were no spots for left-handed offensive players on the Junior ‘A’ team and I switched to playing defense and started going to the gym,” he explained.
Cornwall says he also helps his brother out when he can. Whereas Travis may be more skilled at lacrosse, Cornwall pushes him to work out, putting an emphasis on improving his physical fitness.
“He's really helped me focus my game from a lacrosse perspective of it. From a training perspective though, that's where I've tried to give him all the help that I can, too, because I'm a bit of a gym rat, I guess you could say,” Cornwall said. “Physical fitness is something that I've done thoroughly throughout my life.”
Having those close bonds does a lot to explain why he's so willing to fly across North America every weekend to play lacrosse in Buffalo.
“There's a family aspect to the game to every team and if you're playing for a team that you're good enough to make, but doesn't really want you there, then there's no point in playing because that's not your home so to speak,” Cornwall said. “I really wanted to see if I could make a home in Buffalo and so far, it feels like I've been able to do that with the players and the coaches."