Freshman lax middie overcomes diabetes to star with brother

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

St. John's (Mass.) Preparatory School lacrosse midfielder Drew O'Connell will conclude his team's 2011 campaign on Tuesday as one of the state's most distinguished freshmen, scoring an impressive 22 goals and 15 assists in helping his school reach a second-straight Division I East region championship game.

St. John's midfielder Drew O'Connell
St. John's midfielder Drew O'Connell

Yet, as amazing as his statistics have been, according to the Boston Globe, the mere fact that O'Connell can compete at such a high level at all is almost as impressive to many, considering the fact that he is only slightly more than a year removed from learning that he has Type 1 diabetes.

"My initial reaction was like I had gotten a bad grade," O'Connell told the Globe. "It didn't really feel like anything big … Once I came back to being fully functional, it was a pretty big adjustment, but it's pretty easy to control once you get the hang of it."

While the rest of his teammates put on their pads, O'Connell traditionally takes extra time to attach an insulin pump to his thigh, providing a regular stream of insulin during games that allow him to compete without putting himself in serious danger. Like the handful of other athletes who compete at the varsity scholastic level in different sports while wearing insulin pumps, O'Connell also has to keep snacks on hand at all times in case his blood sugar drops to low for him to maintain his activity.

Yet, unlike baseball and the few football players who compete with an insulin pump, O'Connell has suffered a few more scares because of the physicality and constant tempo of lacrosse. The Globe reported that he twice had his pump jarred loose during the season, requiring a brief one-minute trip to the bench where he could re-attach it.

Despite those relatively minor scares, O'Connell's coach said that the team hasn't had to adjust any of its regular routine to fit in Drew's condition, and that the young star has never been affected by it in any way.

"He has dealt with [diabetes] in stride the entire season," St. John's Prep coach John Ray told the Globe. "I talked with Drew early on in the year about it just to let him know if he ever needs anything, feels like he has low blood sugar, just the technical stuff about dealing with diabetes as an athlete, we addressed that early on. He's been incredibly mature and up front about it, and it's never been an issue or a detriment to him."

All of the extra effort has been made more than worth it for the ability O'Connell has had to play with his older brother in his first varsity season. Jimmu O'Connell is a St. John's senior All-American midfielder headed to Trinity College's impressive Division III program in 2012. In his final campaign, the elder O'Connell has scored a whopping 51 goals and 8 assists, and credits much of his success to the promotion of his younger brother to his first midfield line.

"It's a really cool experience to be able to play with my brother," Jimmy O'Connell told the Globe. "He's done an unbelievable job just to go out there, not be afraid, and do what he does. Whenever he scores, there's a little thing like now I have to score, so he makes me better too."

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