The National Lacrosse League (NLL) announced Thursday that the NLL Hall of Fame will welcome its first class of nominees since 2016. The NLL Hall of Fame Class of 2021, presented by GAIT, features a group of nominees including 17 legendary players and three builders.
“This is, indeed, an impressive selection of candidates whose contributions to lacrosse and the NLL span several eras and the breadth of North America,” NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz shared in a press release Thursday. “We are honored to be continuing the tradition of honoring the greats and we look forward to selecting the next inductees for the most prestigious individual honor in our sport.”
Among the 20 lacrosse legends nominated Thursday were three former Mammoth players in John Grant Jr., Casey Powell and Steve Toll. Shawn Williams, Colorado’s current offensive coordinator, was also nominated. Each member of the group, which has collectively recorded a combined 60 seasons in the NLL, has touched the game in a variety of ways.
“This group of gentlemen has made a tremendous impact on the turf and throughout the lacrosse community during their respective playing careers,” Mammoth General Manager Brad Self shared.
“Furthermore, as individuals, they continue to showcase their respect and appreciation for our sport by continuing to mentor, coach and grow the game we love. We’re thrilled John, Casey, Steve and Shawn have been recognized, deservedly so, and look forward to celebrating their accomplishments this season.”
Mammoth Careers, Colorado Ties
Whether you’re a Mammoth diehard, casual lacrosse goer or have access to the internet in North America, you’ve likely heard of a forward by the name of John Grant Jr. Some would say he was raised by a lacrosse-forward family. Others would literally yell “HELP” every time he penetrated the O-zone.
“Growing up in the same town as Jr., a few of my first sticks were strung by either John Grant Jr. or Sr.,” Self shared. “They were the folks you looked up to and strived to emulate when you’re on the turf.”
The NLL legend evolved the box game for nearly two decades, helping the sport gain its increasing popularity and recognition as the “fastest game on two feet.” Having logged 17 seasons in the NLL, Jr. collected a variety of individual, team and league-bests.
As the first overall selection in the 1995 Major Indoor Lacrosse League (MILL, later became the NLL) and later the first overall selection in the 1999 NLL Entry Draft (after opting to play collegiate lacrosse from 1995-98), the league and its teams had expectations for the Grant bloodline, but Jr. was never one for meeting expectations. He was known for setting and exceeding expectations, at the team, league and overall professional sporting level. His skillset became immediately evident when Grant Jr. captured the 2000 NLL Rookie of the Year title. The rest … is history.
Before joining the Mammoth in 2010 as part of one the league’s biggest blockbuster trades, Jr. began crafting his professional box resume with the Rochester Knighthawks. After earning league MVP honors in 2007 en route to leading the Knighthawks to the 2007 NLL Champion’s Cup Championship, Jr. was also named MVP of the Champion’s Cup game.
Fast forward to when he joined the good guys (us) and became one of the most decorated Colorado athletes to wear the Mammoth crest. Constantly connecting with the community and putting the big numbers on the board, a star was born within the Loud House.
The forward kicked it up a notch in 2012 when he set the NLL single-season scoring record by logging 116 points with the Mammoth during the regular season. Recording his 1000th point and 500th goal during the historic season, Grant Jr. went on to collect his second NLL MVP award in 2012, joining Gary Gait as the only Mammoth players to receive the honor.
The nine-time All-Pro concluded his career in 2017, where he sits as the all-time leader in Mammoth goals (235) and ranks second in both franchise assist (317) and point (552) totals. Jr. finished his career with 668 goals and 1,446 points, both of which rank second-most in NLL history, in 238 regular season appearances. The forward added 111 points (60g, 51a) in 20 postseason appearances and ranks sixth all-time with 778 career assists.
A treat to the eyes of Mammoth fans, a threat to the minds of opposing defensemen, but most importantly, a thrill to be around and an ambassador to the Colorado and lacrosse communities. As the current offensive coordinator for John’s Hopkins University, Jr. continues to share his passion for the game while molding the future of lacrosse players from around North America and beyond.
“John is a lacrosse icon who’s played the game at the highest level on a variety of stages and his accolades speak for themselves,” Self shared. “It was a pleasure playing with and against Jr. over the years and we’re glad to see him recognized for his impressive NLL career.”
Not to much surprise, most of the nominees from this year’s NLL Hall of Fame class have spent some time in the limelight. Lacrosse legend Casey Powell is surely no exception. An American ambassador to the game, a leader on the turf and in the locker room, the face and presence of lacrosse video gaming … the list goes on.
“As one of the first American players to transition some of those field skills to the box game, Casey is an American lacrosse icon,” Self shared. “His ability to implement his knowledge of the game was very important to the success and growth of U.S. box lacrosse and continues to impact the way guys approach and produce in the NLL today.”
The fellow first-overall selection (1998 NLL Entry Draft) competed in 11 NLL seasons as one of the first American-born players to find success in the league. The five-time NLL All-Star and four-time All-Pro forward spent time with several NLL teams before finding a great fit with the Orlando Titans in 2010. As one of the featured threats on the team’s productive offense, Powell was named the 2010 NLL MVP, becoming the first American to earn the award.
In a league dominated by Canadian talent, Powell offered a refreshing skillset that kept defenseman on their toes.
“Casey was an extremely athletic guy with a great imagination for the game,” Self said. “He regularly did things that Canadian box players weren’t used to and it made him hard to play against.”
Powell recorded 57 points (17g, 40a) in 11 games with the Mammoth in 2013 and 2014 and finished his career with 739 points, the most recorded by an American in NLL history. The forward continues to stay connected with the lacrosse community as an ambassador and entrepreneur for the game.
“Between the impact he made as a scorer in our league and the large role he played in paving the way for Americans in the box game, we knew it was only a matter of time before he was nominated for the NLL Hall of Fame.”
From inventing the NLL highlight reel to adapting an American game to a Canadian-influenced league, John Grant Jr. and Casey Powell left their mark on the game in unique ways.
Steve Toll helped influence the game in a different way, essentially helping to create the league’s position known as transition players.
“A while back, before the league shifted toward a more specialized approach, players used to play on both ends of the floor,” Self shared. “Even as the league began to shift toward the specialized aspects, Toll was such an important factor to teams that he would play defense and then take it up the floor and play an O-set too.”
Toll began his NLL Career playing beside Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle in 1998 as the Ontario Raiders debuted in Hamilton before transitioning the next year to the Toronto Rock.
A master at both ends of the floor, Toll spent most of his career with the Rock (1998-2004) and the Rochester Knighthawks (2005-2009) where he won four championships with the Rock and one with Rochester. Toll spent the 2011 season with the Colorado Mammoth where he recorded 13 points (2g, 11a) and 75 loose balls in 16 appearances.
The Hall of Fame nominee finished his career with 1,562 loose balls, which qualifies for fourth in NLL history. Toll also appeared in an impressive 188-consecutive NLL games, which ranks fourth among NLL players all-time.
“You can still see today how important Steve was to the evolution of the NLL,” Self said. “He was the first player to win the NLL Transition Player of the Year award – I think that says a lot about the player he was and all that he’s done for our league.”
A well-rounded, high-IQ player, Toll naturally transitioned into a series of lacrosse coaching and mentoring opportunities following his retirement. The NLL veteran most recently served as a Pro Scout for the Mammoth organization from 2019-2021 before accepting his current role as Defensive Coordinator with Fort Worth.
“Hats off to Toller for a historic NLL career and the impact he’s had on the game – We’re thrilled he’s been nominated and wish him the best with Panther City as he continues to craft his legacy.”
Rounding out Mammoth ties to this year’s Hall of Fame nominees, we take a glimpse into forward Shawn Williams’ illustrious NLL career. As one of eight NLL players to record 1100+ points, Williams, often referred to as “Willy,” was known to dominate defenses.
“I always knew Shawn to be a smart, competitive player who had a great understanding for the game and brought everything he had to the table every time he played,” Self shared. “Playing against him, if you took a second off, he always made you pay for it.”
The two-time NLL champion captured his first in 1999 with the Toronto Rock alongside fellow classmate Steve Toll and NLL Hall of Fame member Pat Coyle. Williams added his second in 2007 with the Rochester Knighthawks during a season the forward recorded a then career-high 91 points (36g, 55a). The Scarborough native added 19 points (6g, 13a) during the team’s championship run. In total, Williams spent 10 seasons with the Knighthawks (2002-2011), four seasons with the Buffalo Bandits (2000-01, 2013-14), two seasons with the Toronto Rock and the 2012 season with the Edmonton Rush.
Throughout a historic 17 NLL seasons, the forward racked up impressive numbers and currently ranks among the top ten in NLL career totals with 444 goals (9th), 708 assists (7th) and 1,152 points (8th). Williams’ 257 career games played remains ranked seventh, while his 230-consecutive games played represents the second longest streak in NLL history.
“Willy was flexible, always able to be the point man, top guy, role player; whatever the team needed, he was able to adjust and that made him an even greater player,” Self shared.
Adding to the trophy case, Williams is a six-time NLL All-Star and received the 2010 NLL Sportsmanship Award.
“He’s someone that you want your younger players to be around to soak up what it takes to prepare and play like a professional,” Self said. “Willy is a natural-born leader; you could see it when he was a player and we’re thankful to have him coaching here in Colorado.”
Voting to select the 2021 NLL Hall of Fame Class will begin shortly. Members of the class chosen for enshrinement will be announced in June, with a corresponding ceremony planned for the fall.
For more updates on Thursday’s Hall of Fame announcement and all Colorado Mammoth news, stay tuned to Colorado Mammoth social media channels.