Carolina Chaos defenseman Jack Rowlett

How a simple question inspired Jack Rowlett’s love for lacrosse

By Hayden Lewis | Jun 7, 2024

Growing up in Burke, Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C., Carolina Chaos defenseman Jack Rowlett didn’t have many local professional athletes to idolize. 

Sure, D.C. has multiple professional sports teams, but as Jack said, “Every team is terrible.” The Capitals had a few good teams but could never claw through the playoffs when Jack was a kid. The Wizards looked to have some promise in years but could never sneak through with Gilbert Arenas or John Wall. The Nationals hadn’t made the playoffs since 1981, and the Washington NFL scene was as chaotic as ever. 

Although there were never championship parades streaming through D.C. during Rowlett’s childhood, he still loved a lot of sports. 

However, there was a sport that Jack gravitated to early: basketball, the sport that ultimately molded him into the athlete he is today. 

Jack’s dad, John, played basketball growing up and ended up playing JUCO ball in Wyoming before moving to Virginia. Naturally, the first sport Jack fell in love with was the game in his blood because it was the first sport he learned from his dad. 

“My dad was a college basketball player, so he wanted me to be a basketball guy,” Rowlett said. “I played a ton of hoops growing up.”

Jack spent a lot of time in his youth playing basketball with his younger brother Nick - his current teammate on the Chaos - at the Rowlett house. Whether it was “21”, “HORSE” or “PIG,” the Rowlett brothers were hooping. 

Rowlett quickly became a fan of the “Point God” Chris Paul and had a Fathead of the guard on his wall, matching the teal and purple jersey he had of the then-New Orleans Hornets star. 

“I just thought he was smooth,” Rowlett said, reminiscing on his basketball idol. 

As the Rowlett brothers continued to age, the fun childhood basketball games quickly turned into wars between siblings in the driveway. Jack and Nick fought like honey badgers protecting their territory -- the animal to which Chaos head coach Andy Towers now compares them. 

Whether it was hard fouls or maybe an occasional fight, the Rowlett brothers were playing to win. The competitive spirit only grew once the brothers picked up their ping pong paddles for the first time. 

“I would honestly say we probably fist-fought over ping pong the most,” Jack Rowlett said.

It wasn’t always fun-loving friendships between the brothers. It was mostly daily competition between the two. Jack’s yearning for competition and lack of activity in the spring ultimately led him to the game of lacrosse

After his sixth-grade basketball season in middle school, Rowlett’s assistant basketball coach approached him and asked him what sport he was playing in the spring. 

“I pretty much told him I don't do anything in the spring,” Jack said. “I was looking for a new sport.”

That’s when Jack Rowlett was first introduced to the medicine game. He attended some lacrosse clinics to pick up the basics of the game, then returned to school and couldn’t wait to play more. 

The lacrosse Rowlett played wasn’t especially organized; it was a neighborhood recreation league. For two years – seventh and eighth grade – Rowlett threw on his gear like other kids across the United States because a new passion was sparked playing rec lacrosse. 

Once he reached high school at Robinson Secondary School, Rowlett began learning higher-level lacrosse from Matt Curran, who now coaches the Ireland national team. 

At Robinson, Rowlett tuned his game and worked to become a more complete player. He finally fit in with the players around him because he had enough experience to hold his own. Eventually, Jack became the shutdown close defender for Robinson and helped lead his high school to back-to-back state titles. 

Jack’s high school success led him to North Carolina to play for coach Joe Breschi and the Tar Heels. North Carolina -- not only a lacrosse blue blood, but a basketball blue blood -- was a perfect spot for Rowlett. 

As a freshman, Rowlett started 17 games at close defense and won a national championship. And his success didn’t stop there. He continued to hone his skills to become a top close defender in his class. 

Rowlett always was skilled at scooping up ground balls (he had 40 as a freshman and 140 in his college career) but he needed to improve his stick skills in coverage to be a more disruptive force. 

Between Jack’s sophomore and junior seasons, he caused 19 turnovers -- an underwhelming total. Jack knew that and took it upon himself to have a stout senior showing. He did that and some, causing 23 turnovers, picking up 43 ground balls and scoring four goals in his final go-around in Chapel Hill. 

After a successful career in powder blue and white, Rowlett was drafted seventh overall by the Chaos in 2019 and immediately made an impact at the pro level.

He was a Rookie of the Year finalist, then turned in a dominant showing in the 2020 bubble season to cement himself as one of the league’s top cover defenders. Rowlett was a finalist for the Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year Award that season.

Jack's career reached its first peak in 2021 when the Chaos won their first PLL title. But since that championship, the Chaos haven’t returned to the big game – a drought they hope to end this season. 

Chaos’ new home city of Charlotte reconnected Rowlett with his college roots. Set to return to the Queen City this weekend alongside his Chaos teammates, Jack is ready to be back in the Tar Heel State. 

“I’ve always liked Charlotte,” said Rowlett, a three-time first-team All-Pro. “Being in North Carolina is a slower pace, and after driving in Boston for a couple of months, it will be really nice to go back down there and actually go the speed limit.”

Although the simpler things in life may be at the forefront of Jack’s mind, chaos and competition live deep inside the basketball-loving close defender. 

“If it wasn't for basketball," he said with a chuckle, "and the basketball coach who asked me to play lacrosse, [my lacrosse career] might not happen.