Ryan Brown brings sharpshooting to lacrosse staff


Photo by Austin Anderson

Ryan Brown warms up goalie Cole Blazer during a practice in January.

When watching the start of men’s lacrosse practices down at Valley Fields, it’s natural for wandering eyes to zero in on a handful of shots that whiz by at an unusually wicked pace. Marquette goalie Cole Blazer tries his best to keep his save percentage up as he’s peppered with shots, but bigger names than him have failed doing so in the past.

As your eyes move over to the shooter, you might be surprised to see the man firing off these bullets is in a Marquette sweatshirt and sweatpants instead of a uniform. His name is Ryan Brown, the new volunteer assistant coach on head coach Joe Amplo’s staff, and he’s been making goalies look foolish with his quick release and fundamental shooting for years.

“I feel bad for our goalies,” Amplo said. “Cole’s like, ‘Oh crap, Ryan Brown’s warming me up?'”

He hasn’t had his shot measured with a radar gun for a few years, but last time he did, it topped 100 miles per hour. Amplo called it the best shot in the world, so Blazer and the rest of the goalie group are always on their toes during warmups.

“I try not to kill them with shots,” Brown said.

While at Johns Hopkins, Brown scored 159 goals and 209 points, good for second on Johns Hopkins all-time goal list and seventh for all-time points. He was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 Major League Lacrosse draft by the Charlotte Hounds and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 23 goals and seven assists. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, and just last week he scored a hat trick for Team USA in a Spring Premiere game against Notre Dame.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Amplo said. “He’s got a unique shooting style and an uncanny ability to get open.”

His player resume speaks for itself, but not every great player makes a great coach. Being able to connect with all types of players is key to passing on a coach’s personal success.

“He’s got a great demeanor with our guys,” Amplo said. “He’s a natural teacher. Our guys, they certainly respect him when it comes from a player standpoint. He’s really made an impact in how he’s able to translate his knowledge into our guys.”

One attribute that heightens Brown’s ability to connect with the team is how recently he was in their shoes. Despite coming from a school with a history of lacrosse success, Brown has been able to tap into the Marquette lacrosse culture.

“It’s easy to get what they’re going through,” Brown said. “If a couple of years go by, you don’t still have that same perspective as when you were right there.”

It isn’t very surprising what he’s focused on the most with the attack unit.

“From the first day, he was able to point out little tiny things that no one ever really pointed out in my shooting,” Ryan McNamara said. “He’s like, ‘Oh, you’re left handed, do this. It’d be better if point your foot more towards the net.’ Tiny little things like that he was able to come in and fix.”

“I’m picking out little things they can try,” Brown said. “There’s more than one way to shoot the ball, so different things to think about when they are shooting from different spots.”

Brown’s arrival at Marquette was due to a bit of luck on both sides. Marquette came into the picture for Brown because his girlfriend is in medical school in Wisconsin, and he was thinking about the benefits of coaching at the time. He’d be able to stay around the game during the year while still honoring his playing commitments in the summer. He decided to reach out to Amplo to see if there were any opportunities on his staff.

“He said there was a volunteer spot open, so it was perfect,” Brown said.

Now with a few scrimmages under his belt, he’s content with his status. He’s learning on the job and getting a chance to train in the off-season with fellow MLL players, fellow assistant coach Jake Richard and director of lacrosse operations B.J. Grill. His position may be on a volunteer basis, but he’s making some money going to events for Amplo and running clinics with former Duke star and current Hounds teammate¬†Deemer Class.

Plus, he’ll get plenty of time to work on that shot the rest of the winter and spring, which should benefit the goalies in the long run too.

“I hope. It might make them less confident,” Amplo joked.