When transferring to Maryland from Marquette, Nick Grill didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Entering a program with such a storied history and several certified leaders on the roster such as Bubba Fairman and Jared Bernhardt, Grill was careful with his approach. However, since making the transition, Grill has fit in seamlessly, quietly leading and adding onto the Terps culture of family and leadership.
“I’m really proud of him, it’s tough being the new guy,” head coach John Tillman said. “There’s a little bit of trying to come in and be accepted and not come in too loud, just letting people get to know you and not trying too hard.”
Throughout the off-season, several Terps encouraged Grill to become more vocal, but he was hesitant, not wanting to come in too hot. However, in a year with several new additions to the roster, Grill’s experience became even more valuable. As he has settled into the culture, Grill has led in his own way. Starting all 43 games in his three seasons at Marquette, he has a plethora of invaluable game experience.
“I’ve been telling him along, ‘just take control of [the defense], you’re going to be on the field at all times, you’re in charge of it,’” midfielder Roman Puglise said.
In five games this season, Grill has played alongside three sophomore defensemen and two young goaltenders with a combined seven games of starting experience. Playing alongside such a young corps, he has been thrusted into an important leadership role.
“I just have a ton of experience playing college lacrosse for four years,” Grill said. “Playing a ton of games, and you just learn some things that you don’t learn on film or in practice.”
Two of the Terps starting three defensemen, sophomores Matt Rahill and John Geppert aren’t as experienced playing close defense. Sophomore Brett Makar is the next most experienced of the group, having started all 17 games last season. Geppert played offensive middie in high school, while Rahill spent much of last season playing long-stick midfield.
Transitioning from middie to close defense is not easy, as positioning and slides defensively are different across both positions. Those 43 games of experience afford Grill the unique opportunity to impart wisdom to his younger teammates, and answer any questions the younger defenders have.
“I think [Grill] has been really crucial for [Brett Makar’s] development, [John Geppert’s] development for [Matt Rahill’s] development and for some of the younger guys coming along,” Puglise said.
Not only has Grill stepped up in helping the younger defenders develop, he has also taken the responsibility in several games of guarding the opposing team’s number one weapon. Assisting his linemates with positioning, while also guarding an elite offensive player, is no easy task.
However, as he’s done since arriving at Maryland, he’s taken everything in stride and continued to lead in his own way. Grill, led the Maryland defense in their best performance of the season in Saturday’s 14-9 victory over Notre Dame, continuing to impress despite his increased responsibilities.
“We’ve asked him to be more vocal, provide some experience and more communication just because he’s got so much,” Tillman said. “He’s logged a lot of minutes, he’s got a lot to offer, he’s really bright and he’s like having another coach out there.”
Five games into his only season with the Terps, Grill has become a vital part of Maryland’s success. And his initial reluctance to take a leadership role is far in the past.
“This an awesome place to be, we’re in a place that not only cares about lacrosse, but each other as people,” Grill said. “That was something that was unique to me when I was getting recruited by coach Tillman.”