Marquette Wire

Trio balancing start of MLL season with jobs on MU staff

From+left+to+right%3A+B.J.+Grill+of+the+Denver+Outlaws%2C+Jake+Richard+of+the+New+York+Lizards+and+Ryan+Brown+of+the+Charlotte+Hounds.
From left to right: B.J. Grill of the Denver Outlaws, Jake Richard of the New York Lizards and Ryan Brown of the Charlotte Hounds.

From left to right: B.J. Grill of the Denver Outlaws, Jake Richard of the New York Lizards and Ryan Brown of the Charlotte Hounds.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

From left to right: B.J. Grill of the Denver Outlaws, Jake Richard of the New York Lizards and Ryan Brown of the Charlotte Hounds.

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B.J. Grill and Ryan Brown sit feet away from each other in the lacrosse offices during the week, but when the duo took the same flight down to Charlotte, they were prepping to go to battle against one another.

Grill and Brown, both members of Marquette’s coaching staff, play in Major League Lacrosse, the premiere professional outdoor lacrosse league. Grill’s Denver Outlaws traveled to play Brown’s Charlotte Hounds as part of the MLL’s season-opening weekend.

Brown was dominant, scoring five goals and one assist, but Grill got the final laugh. The Outlaws began their title defense with a 13-12 victory at American Legion Memorial Stadium.

A third member of Joe Amplo’s staff, Jake Richard, is also in the MLL. However, he wasn’t able to join his New York Lizards when they played the Chesapeake Bayhawks Saturday. He was busy trying to slow down Duke at Valley Fields. He’ll miss at least two more weeks of the season as he works the sidelines during Marquette’s game against Denver and the BIG EAST Tournament.

“It’s just a small sacrifice to make to be able to have the lifestyle that I have,” Richard said. “I don’t remember seeing any friction from the Lizards at all. They’re like, ‘Alright, you’re going to miss the first couple games, right?’ … It’s been easy.”

It isn’t a problem unique to Marquette’s staffers. Eighteen MLL players coach at the Division I level, and many others coach at the Division II, Division III, club and high school levels. Teams are also without players finishing up the indoor lacrosse season and won’t have this year’s collegiate draft picks until Memorial Day weekend. The rosters at the beginning of the season rarely look like the ones at season’s end.

Grill and Brown are exceptions. Grill’s work as director of lacrosse operations is done by game day, and since Brown is a volunteer assistant, head coach Joe Amplo said they wouldn’t hold him back from playing.

Whether they’re on the sidelines or not, they have to balance their commitment to both Marquette and their respective MLL franchise.

“Time management is really hard, especially when I work until 5 and go to school until 5:30 or 8:30,” Grill said. “That’s one thing that I struggle with, but games make it worth it.”

On top of balancing playing and their Marquette duties, the trio is also fighting off the infamous sophomore MLL slump. All three had outstanding rookie campaigns. Brown finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, Grill won the Steinfeld Cup as a starting defenseman and Richard found a spot in the rotation on one of the deepest defensive midfield units in the league.

However, the first year in the league is often known as the easiest. Players jump right into the MLL season after they finish their collegiate season, so their bodies are still fine-tuned by their college coaches and training staff. After the first year, they’re on your own. No one will tell them to work out or force them to go to practice.

“The echo I heard last year was, ‘If you make it two (years), you’ll probably make it six,'” Grill said. “You’ve got to make that second year. That allows you to show you’re really committed to being at your physical peak on your own. … I kind of went through a lull, a hard lull. I’ve recently recovered over the past month.”

Grill, Brown and Richard have the advantage of holding a lacrosse stick a majority of their days, as opposed to some of their colleagues who work regular day jobs. Since their schedules line up, Brown and Richard work out together and all three have the facilities to hone their skills.

“There’s definitely a big difference between going to practice, being able to work out and watching lacrosse all the time than sitting at a desk in New York City looking at investments and stocks,” Brown said, “There’s a big difference in readiness to play.”

However, the lack of other post-collegiate lacrosse players in the state made it difficult for them to stay prepared.

“Being in Wisconsin, there’s not a league and there’s nothing where you can actually compete against other people,” Grill said. “The couple guys that actually did come in in phenomenal shape were guys that had the opportunity to play consistently at least 4-on-4 or 6-on-6 with friends.”

So, there will be some trial by fire early on, but a busy summer schedule will whip them into shape.

“I’m going to be on a plane for 16 of the next 18 weekends, minimum,” Grill said. “It’s exhausting almost. It’s tough to think about, but once you get into rhythm with games … the season starts to roll and it becomes fun. It’s like the most fun lacrosse I think I’ve ever played.”

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