Eldersburg's Randy Ernst has truly made the most of his opportunities in the past year.
A month before graduating from Towson State with an economics degree last December, the 22-year-old lacrosse standout got a tryout with the Pittsburgh Bulls of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
After four tryout sessions, he had won a spot on the 25-man Bullsroster. But there was still more work to do.
"My next goal was totravel with the team," Ernst said. "Only 18 suit up for (road) games."
The team played poorly in its opener at Detroit, he said. A subsequent reshuffling of the travel roster included a promotion for Ernst.
And it didn't take long for the rookie forward to make his mark. In six games, Ernst scored two goals and had four assists.
"I got an opportunity to travel and played pretty well," he said. "I've traveled ever since."
Along the way, there were a few trips to the penalty box -- enough to rank him in the top five in the league in penalty minutes.
"He's a grinder," said teammate John Wilson, who's been with the Bulls for three years. "He's one of our most physical players and likes to mix it up a bit. He did a great job for us comingin as a rookie."
The physical play isn't the only feature of indoor lacrosse, the game also offers speed.
"It's the fastest game ontwo feet," Ernst said.
"The game is very exciting to watch," he added. "It's like the advertisement says, 'We'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge.' "
Ernst began playing outdoor lacrosse in eighth grade and was a standout player at Liberty High School.
After a year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County,he transferred to Towson State, where he was a three-year starter and won the James Saxon Leadership Award his junior year.
His adjustment to the faster-paced indoor game didn't come easily.
"The biggest transition was shooting," Ernst said.
"In indoor, you only have about 2 inches to shoot at on each corner. You really need to use alot of fakes to get the goalie moving and just pick your spot."
The Bulls finished the season with a 3-5 record and failed to make theplayoffs. Ernst is already looking forward to next season.
"I'm gonna build a net in my back yard and be ready to go," he said. "Beinga professional athlete and having kids come up to you and ask for anautograph -- it's just a lot of fun.
"We were in Philly playing in front of a sellout crowd -- 18,000 people. It was awesome, the introduction 'No. 2, a rookie from Towson State, Randy Ernst!' "
Six teams -- including the Baltimore Thunder -- make up the MILL, which was established seven years ago. Last season, Ernst earned $125 per game, plus travel money. He said the most a player can make per game is $350, which is based on years of service in the league.
"The league's doing great. Philly, Buffalo, Detroit and New York are all selling out, and we're drawing around 8,000 a game in Pittsburgh," he said.
Along with playing professional lacrosse, Ernst is a sales representative with a wine company in Montgomery County.
"I enjoy it. I was bar-tending before and really wanted a normal (9-to-5) job," he said.
Fortunately, the two careers rarely conflict. Many team members are from Baltimore, where the squad holds its practices.
"We'rea Pittsburgh team, but most of the team is from Baltimore. During the preseason, we practice Wednesday and Sunday nights. And during the season we practice on Wednesday and play during the weekend, so it works out well."