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05/08/2014 - 2:38pm

By Craig Rybczynski - (May 8, 2014)… The night football fans have been waiting for all offseason is just hours away. The 2014 National Football League Draft will kick off tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Hundreds of college stars will fulfill their lifelong dreams of hearing their names announced on draft day. It’s not unlike other professional sports that select top players to reload their rosters. The National Lacrosse League is one such league that utilizes an annual draft to stock its nine-member teams. As the Knighthawks embark on another playoff appearance, it was on draft day where Rochester began building its team for postseason success.

Rochester has an impressive list of draft picks who have succeeded at the professional level, including former first overall picks Sid Smith and Cody Jamieson, and former fifth-round pick Cory Vitarelli.

Vitarelli, who was a steal in the 2006 NLL Entry Draft, is in his fourth season with the Knighthawks and has scored 20 goals in three straight seasons. Smith is a two-time team captain and a four-time winner of the team’s Best Defenseman Award. Jamieson has amassed 335 points in four seasons and captured his first NLL Scoring Title with a career-high 108 points in 2014. Draft Day was an awesome experience for Jamieson, who received his jersey from his one of his childhood idols, Gary Gait.

"It is a dream come true," said Jamieson on draft day on September 8, 2010. "Every kid growing up wants to be a pro athlete and I have been thinking about this day for a long time."

Recent draft picks making an impact also include Stephen Keogh and Johnny Powless, who were both taken in the first round of the 2011 NLL Entry Draft. Keogh, who went second overall, had his best offensive season in 2014, achieving career highs in goals, assists and points. Draft day was very memorable as he was selected in his hometown of Toronto in front of his friends and family.

“It was a great experience being picked No. 2 with so much talent in the draft,” said Keogh, who is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan. “It was exciting getting drafted by a great organization like Rochester. It’s only a few hours from home so my family can drive down to home games to watch me play.”

Powless was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft and experienced similar success this season. The third-year pro scored a career-high 30 goals en route to a career-best 53 points. The Six Nations star was chosen as an 18-year-old after Rochester made a trade with Calgary to obtain the No. 5 selection.

“I was excited when I threw my name into the hat (for the draft). Just to hear my name called was a dream come true,” said Powless. “To have my mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa there made it that much more special.”

At this past year’s draft, Rochester selected Mark White, Taylor Northway, Zac Reid and Brandon Styres. Rochester used its first selection in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft to take White in the third round (27th overall). It was an exciting day for Mark and his family to get selected by the Knighthawks.

“It’s was unbelievable. Going to one of the best teams in the NLL is a pretty amazing feeling,” he said.

With the East Division Finals in two days, the Knighthawks will be hard at work preparing for the playoffs instead of watching the NFL Draft. Yet, the reminder that 256 players will move one step closer to their dreams was enough to make Rochester transition man Joel McCready reminisce about the day he became a professional athlete. 

“It was a dream come true. It’s definitely a moment in my life I will cherish and always remember. It was a great day I will always look back on and smile,” said the former second-round pick. “I am reminded of everyone in the St. Catharines minor system, all the coaches and volunteers, who helped along the way, and thank the Rochester management for believing in me and giving me a shot.”

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