Nov 28th, 2012 | The Drive of Ryan Hotaling
by Samuel Perley
Throughout his accomplished lacrosse career, the Charlotte Copperheads’ Ryan Hotaling has had a number of memories that stand out. Playing for a Division III National Title with Nazareth College at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens is certainly up there. Making his National Lacrosse League debut with the Boston Blazers in box lacrosse crazed Toronto, an environment Hotaling describes as “head and shoulders above anything else with its die hard fans, excitement and energy” was also a great moment. Hotaling says the best part of his career was the opportunity to represent the United States at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Prague, Czech Republic in the summer of 2011 in what he describes as “an absolute dream come true.” So it’s hard to imagine that one of the nation’s best indoor players almost missed out on all these opportunities had his original plans of playing basketball in college worked out like he intended.
Hotaling’s path to representing the United States began in Syracuse, NY where he was born in 1984 to Jay and Sondra Hotaling. Ryan got involved in lacrosse after his sister Amanda’s boyfriend gave him an old lacrosse stick when he was ten years old, immediately hooking him to the sport. The athletic Hotaling ended up not only playing lacrosse at Onondaga Central High School but also basketball and football which included quarterbacking two New York state football championship teams.
When it came time to take his athletic career to the next level in 2003, Hotaling made the decision to enroll at nearby Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, a Division III school known for its excellence academically and athletically. Originally, Hotaling planned on playing basketball for the Golden Flyers but unfortunately his plans on the court “didn’t really work out” and he eventually made the choice to focus solely on lacrosse in college which in hindsight might have ended up being a life changing decision and blessing in disguise.
Nazareth College head lacrosse coach Rob Randall had the privilege of coaching Hotaling during his entire four year career in college. “Ryan is a great kid that truly took advantage of what I told him to do,” says Randall. After Randall sat down with him after his first season and explained the areas where he needed to make improvements on in his game if he wanted to start his sophomore season, Hotaling returned to school as “a totally different player” says Randall. Not only did Hotaling end up starting his sophomore year, but he also collected 1st Team All-American Honors and went on to win the Turnbull Award given annually to the Division III Attackman of the Year. “Ryan was not only a talented player to begin with but he was a kid who listened and learned and because of that, he turned into the best player in the country,” stated Randall. Randall has been coaching lacrosse for 25 years and to this day still calls Hotaling “one of the best kids I have ever coached and that has nothing to do with his lacrosse ability.”
In addition to the accolades previously mentioned, Hotaling helped lead the Golden Flyers to the 2004 Division III National Championship game and was named 2007 Empire 8 Athletic Conference Men’s Lacrosse Player of the Year. Hotaling also finished his career with 232 career points which included 139 goals, three short of the Golden Flyers’ career record. A shoulder injury his senior season which cost him a few games was the only thing standing between him and the “chance to easily be the program’s all time leading goal scorer,” says Randall. Hotaling was also named to Nazareth Lacrosse’s 25th Anniversary Team in 2011 and garnered All-American honors three times included first team in 2005 and 2007. While perhaps frustrated and disappointed at the time with his hoop dreams not coming to fruition, it seems curious now how Hotaling would ever consider turning away from lacrosse based on what he would ultimately end up achieving in the sport, undoubtedly a testament to his talent, athletic ability and perseverance.
After graduating with a degree in business administration in 2007, Hotaling’s strong collegiate performance caught the eye of Major League Lacrosse and led him to getting drafted by the New Jersey Pride and eventually traded to the San Francisco Dragons where he played for the 2007 season. The Dragons folded soon after the conclusion of the season and Hotaling made his way back east the following year to play with the MLL’s Rochester Rattlers before moving indoors and joining the National Lacrosse League’s Boston Blazers in 2010 for two seasons. While in Boston, Hotaling tallied more than 100 loose balls in both 2010 and 2011 and finished the 2011 season with 56% faceoff winning percentage, good for third best in the NLL. Notably, Hotaling had never really taken a faceoff before and established himself as one’s of the league’s best “not because of his skills facing off but because of his athleticism and being able to simply outwork someone to the loose ball” says long time and current teammate Greg Rogowski.
His exceptional play for a variety of teams eventually led Hotaling to be named to the aforementioned United States National Team for the World Indoor Games in Prague, Czech Republic held in May 2011. The United States went home with the bronze medal from the eight-team tournament that was ultimately won by Canada for the third consecutive year. “Playing for Team USA was a dream come true. It’s every kid’s dream to be able to represent their country and I am extremely fortunate that my dream had become a reality,” says Hotaling.
Graham D’Alvia and Tom Ryan, the Charlotte Copperheads President and Head Coach, respectively, spoke with Hotaling at the 2011 Bowhunter Cup explaining the new indoor league and invited him to be part of the Copperheads as their designated franchise player. Ryan had previously coached Hotaling while in charge of the Boston Blazers. Hotaling immediately jumped at the opportunity “to grow the game” and wanted to write another chapter with two individuals who he stated “have been great influences in my life.” Copperheads coach Tom Ryan’s reaction to Hotaling joining the team: “We built our roster around Ryan. He is one of the most well rounded players in the game. More importantly is the quality of this character” a major reason why Hotaling was voted team captain.
Fellow Copperheads’ captain, Greg Rogowski, has been playing with Hotaling for almost eight years now and credits him for getting him started playing indoor lacrosse. Rogowski and Hotaling played on the Mohawk Lacrosse Club, a local summer league team in upstate New York after both had graduated college. Hotaling convinced Rogowski to take a weekend trip to Sherbrooke, Quebec to play for D’Alvia and the United States Developmental Team during Rogowski’s first summer out of Merrimack in 2009. “I will always remember that weekend not only because it was the first time I had ever played legit indoor but also because I never forget watching Ryan scoop up loose ball after loose ball and sprinting down the floor past everyone and seemingly scoring at will. After that weekend I tried to model my shooting after what I saw him doing out there,” said Rogowski. In addition to Rogowski’s athletic admiration for Hotaling, “Ryan is one of the most sincere and generous people I have ever met. He’s one of those guys that would give you the shirt off his own back,” Rogowski added.
Hotaling currently resides in Saratoga, NY where he works for Olympus selling medical devices that aid doctors and surgeons in the removal of organs. Oddly enough in other similar insistence of fate like his plans of playing basketball at Nazareth, Hotaling said he landed the job after holding the door for a local grocery store CEO at a restaurant who put him in touch with a contact who ultimately ended up helping him land the position. It seems only fitting that Hotaling’s professional life began with an instance of chance, similar to the way his outstanding lacrosse career began. While fate and luck played a minor role along the way Hotaling’s career unfolded, it is determination, talent and above all character that are the defining factors of his success.