Nick Singleton’s resilience lands him in men’s lacrosse lineup


Photo by Maggie Bean via Marquette Athletics

Defender Nick Singleton started on Marquette’s lacrosse team as a walk-on and has evolved into a full-time contributor.

When men’s lacrosse head coach Joe Amplo is recruiting players, he looks for physical and mental toughness, the sign of a player that has something to prove.

“I won’t recruit a kid that doesn’t have that burning desire to prove himself,” Amplo said.

Nick Singleton had that desire, but Marquette was no longer recruiting him. Marquette initially looked at Singleton early in his high school career, but by his senior year at Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, Illinois, the Golden Eagles already filled their roster for the following season. Singleton, who is rarely satisfied, decided to show Amplo through determination and persistence he deserved a spot on the Marquette roster.

He was prepared to send his tuition deposit to Purdue University and pass on several Division III lacrosse offers. Before he sent his deposit, Singleton decided to take one more tour of Marquette.

“I came here. It was a beautiful day,” Singleton said. “Everything felt perfect.”

Singleton was sold on coming to Marquette, even with lacrosse out of the picture. He enrolled and selected exercise physiology as his major.

In his Introduction to Exercise Physiology class, Todd Smith, Marquette Athletics’ director of sports performance, was a guest speaker. After Smith gave his talk on athletic training, Singleton and about 10 of his classmates introduced themselves to Smith to learn how they could become involved with the athletic teams. Smith instructed each of them to show up at the Al McGuire Center early the next morning.

“I make them jump through hoops to see if they are serious about it, ‘cause I don’t want to put time into somebody who is not serious about it,” Smith said. “Making them wake up at 5-5:30 a.m., most people don’t do that.”

But Singleton did, so Smith hired him as a strength and conditioning intern. By pure happenstance, Singleton was assigned to work with the men’s lacrosse team.

After working with the team in the weight room, Singleton found himself missing the sport. He longed not only to play, but to also feel team camaraderie. Singleton wanted to give his lacrosse dreams one more shot.

Every day during the school week, Singleton would wake up at 5 a.m. to work as an intern, then go to class, fit in his own workout, and find time to play wall ball. That wasn’t enough, so he joined the club lacrosse team second semester. They practiced late at night, sometimes not ending until 1 a.m., which gave Singleton a mere four hours of sleep before he was back in the weight room to help the men’s team.

All the while, Singleton made sure to show Amplo he deserved to be on the team. Each morning, he greeted Amplo with a handshake and would engage him in conversation about how the Division I team was doing.

“I felt bad, actually,” Amplo said. “Honestly, I mean, I remember being in the weight room feeling bad that I didn’t give this kid an opportunity because I was so impressed right away with his work ethic. … I had it in my mind right away: I missed one here.”

Over the summer, Singleton’s persistence finally paid off. Amplo and the coaches told him he would have a spot on the team.

“At that moment, I was extremely excited. I called my parents.” Singleton said. “At the same time, I knew it wasn’t an easy road to get to that point, and I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road going forward.

“I had to literally get to work because I needed to prove myself,” Singleton continued. “Proved that I belonged there.”

Amplo switched Singleton from a long stick defensive midfielder to short stick. That allowed Singleton’s athleticism to shine, but Singleton was told he needed to improve his stick skills.

“Jake Richard, our assistant coach, said, ‘If this kid could figure out how to be a lacrosse player, he is athletic enough to do it,'” Amplo said. “So, we told him, ‘We are going to change your position. We want to see you all the time with a stick in your hands, and he took that to heart.”

Soon, there were a few walls on Marquette’s campus with balls bouncing off them. Singleton had at least 500 touches a day by carrying his stick with him everywhere he went, playing wall ball in between and after class.

In his redshirt freshman year, Singleton saw action in two games. This season, he’s already surpassed that mark, appearing in all eight of Marquette’s games, causing five turnovers and picking up five ground balls in gritty, workmanlike fashion.

“He has been great,” Amplo said. “Certainly, he is not free of mistake, but that is OK. He learns from his mistakes. I mean heck, Nick Singleton is a walk-on, and we beat Ohio State with him out there.”

“He’s the type of human being we need on our team,” Amplo continued. “Regardless of skill or stat, he’s going to make us better because of the person he is.”

Yet Singleton always strives to improve.

“I never want to be satisfied with where I am at because then you are not moving forward,” Singleton said. “Sometimes it is a fault of mine because you grind on things too much and you never have a break. But I love the grind. I love working hard.”