Denver Outlaws draft pick Brennan O'Neill

Brennan O’Neill, Josh Zawada bringing Duke connection to Denver Outlaws

By Topher Adams | May 21, 2024

Finding a place in a new locker room can be a challenge. Trying to find a place as a rookie can be even harder. But for a pair of Denver draft picks, they’ll at least have one familiar face joining them at the next level.

The Denver Outlaws selected Brennan O’Neill No. 1 overall in the 2024 PLL Collegiate Draft, then picked his college teammate Josh Zawada in the third round. The duo now will look to build on a successful season with Duke at the next level.

“It's always great to have a teammate come with you,” Outlaws head coach Tim Soudan said. “Their continuity is probably going to be really apparent right out of the gate.”

Zawada spent four years breaking records at Michigan before transferring to Durham for his final season. In one season playing alongside O’Neill, the duo built fast chemistry. 

“[O'Neill]'s been great. Took me in right away,” Zawada said. “It's been an easy transition.”

The two future Outlaws are the only Blue Devils to eclipse 70 points this season. Zawada set a new career high with 78 points and O’Neill topped 50 goals for the third consecutive season. O’Neill and Zawada are joining a Denver roster with established Duke connections, as well. Three Outlaws --- defensemen JT Giles-Harris and Mike Manley and SSDM Will Haus --- all played for the Blue Devils in college.

“You already have something in common as soon as you step foot in that locker room because they've been through exactly what you've been through every year,” O’Neill said.

Even though Zawada spent just one year playing at Duke, he felt the culture in Durham was special.

“I definitely think it's a different kind of brotherhood compared to other places,” Zawada said. “I think it's just going to be seamless to see other guys because they know what you want. And obviously here you kind of build upon that and kind of to see it at the next level would be pretty cool.”

Giles-Harris played with O’Neill for one season at Duke and at last summer’s World Lacrosse Championship. He saw first-hand the type of player and person O’Neill is and expects him to fit into the Outlaws’ culture.

“He's easily gonna assimilate into our culture with no problem, just because he's that type of person,” Giles-Harris said.

In the opening round of the NCAA tournament, O'Neill and Zawada dazzled for No. 2 seed Duke in a 19-7 demolition of the Utah Utes. Zawada delivered one of his best performances in a Blue Devil uniform with four goals and four assists, while O’Neill casually added a pair of goals and assists to his playoff resume.

O'Neill then scored three goals against Maryland in the national quarterfinals, with Zawada adding an assist in a 14-11 loss that closed out their collegiate careers.