Left to lead: As the veteran of SU’s defense, Megill looks to carry on a proud tradition

first_imgThe impact of the hit echoed throughout the Carrier Dome. Seven minutes into the first game of his Syracuse career, Brian Megill proved he belonged out on the field as a starter. The freshman defender drilled Denver’s Alex Drexler along the left sideline, leaving him down on the ground in pain and knocking him out of the game. The crushing hit sent a woozy Drexler wobbling to the sideline with a concussion and officially established Megill as a rising star in college lacrosse. ‘Everybody kind of knew after that hit, this guy’s the real deal and people who didn’t know about him were about to find out because he was able to blow this kid up,’ former SU goaltender John Galloway said. ‘And I’ll never forget it. It was against Denver, and we all kind of looked at each other and felt much more at ease. ‘We knew that this kid wasn’t worried, he wasn’t scared to play and he was going to be special on Syracuse.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Through two years, Megill has lived up to that billing. He went on to start every game during his first year, becoming the first freshman defender to do so under head coach John Desko. And Megill brought that physical presence to a stifling defensive unit that ranked among the best in the country. But now, the junior is expected to do more following the graduation of All-Americans Galloway, John Lade, Joel White and Tom Guadagnolo. As the lone returning starter on defense, it is on Megill’s shoulders to lead the unit and carry on the proud tradition. ‘The last time that I talked to him, I told him that it was his defense now,’ Lade said. ‘He’s got to definitely work harder than any other defenseman in the country, and he’s definitely got to be ready to play some great attackmen.’ His teammates and coaches rave about his work ethic. His intensity and physicality caught their attention immediately during the fall of his freshman year. And Guadagnolo and his former teammates all say the 6-foot, 226-pound Megill is the total package as a defender — strong enough to stop a bull dodger like Denver’s 6-foot-4, 210-pound attack Mark Matthews, but also quick enough to stick with Duke’s Jordan Wolf, a speedy 5-foot-9, 170-pound attack. While Lade and Galloway couldn’t pick out a flaw in the preseason All-American’s game, Megill knows of one glaring weakness that has been there since high school. He’s gotten quicker over the years, but he’s still not quick enough. White could see the frustration on Megill’s face as he chased Cornell attack Rob Pannell around the Carrier Dome field to no avail. With top cover man Lade out with an injury, Pannell torched Syracuse for six points, scoring two of his three goals against Megill in the second quarter as SU fell for the first and only time of the regular season in 2011. ‘I learned a lot,’ Megill said. ‘I learned I was still really slow because Rob Pannell is fast. He’s a great attackman, best I’ve seen in a long, long time.’ With that game in the back of his mind, Megill entered the offseason determined to get faster. His brother, Ray, a former All-American defender at Maryland, had been telling him his footwork needed improvement since high school. But Megill could get by using his superior strength to overpower opponents then and didn’t take his brother’s advice. This past offseason, the agility drills he once ignored became a part of his routine. He kept a speed ladder, cones, parachute and weighted vest in the back of his truck. ‘There’s times where he would just at the most random point in the day, he would just hop up and say, ‘I’m going to go for a run or I’m going to go workout,” Ray Megill said. ‘So he definitely does have a tireless work ethic.’ Megill tested himself even more when he spent part of the summer living with his brother in Rockville, Md. Ray Megill put him through CrossFit workouts, an unconventional fitness program designed to increase endurance and push athletes to their limits. The workouts can be as short as five minutes or as long as an hour. From up-downs and tire flips to box jumps and medicine ball training, the intense sessions were grueling. But Megill was hungry to get better, motivated by his struggles against Pannell last April. ‘I use that game as my drive to workout and to get better because I feel like I can play so much better and do better,’ Megill said. ‘And he’s one of the guys that I think about when I’m working out, that pushes me even harder, that gets me going that when I’m sitting down watching TV, I’m like, ‘I wonder what he’s doing.” That work ethic has defined Megill’s entire Syracuse career. Megill wasn’t highly touted coming out of Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, N.J., but he separated himself from the rest of his class and forced his way into the discussion for the open starting spot on defense during fall practice. The young defender was a pest, slashing and laying hits on big-time attack Cody Jamieson and Chris Daniello, who had helped the Orange to two straight national titles before he arrived. White remembers Megill injecting life into a dead practice with a big hit or a fast-break goal, telling his teammates through his actions to pick up the intensity. ‘He wasn’t afraid to come across the middle and stir up things even in practice,’ White said. ‘I can definitely remember a couple of times him coming across the middle and laying someone out and really spicing up practice a little bit.’ Through his hustle at practice, Megill earned the respect of his teammates in the locker room. Guadagnolo said the young defender pushed them to get better. He yelled at juniors and seniors if he felt they could go harder — something rarely seen in an underclassman. And Megill also made an impression through his actions in the weight room. Megill was often seen in a full sweat suit on a treadmill overlooking the football weight room as he tried to shed pounds and improve his conditioning. Multiple times, Guadagnolo recalled seeing Megill running after practice when everyone else had already left for the night. ‘Even if he didn’t say something, just other guys seeing him doing it, it would change their perspective on things, and they would start doing it,’ Guadagnolo said. ‘‘Oh man, this guy’s only a sophomore, and he’s working harder than you or he’s working harder than me.’ Guys would be embarrassed, so now we need to start doing it, too.’ His relentless drive struck Galloway during the fall of Megill’s freshman year. In the corner of Wohl Field before a practice, Megill approached the junior goaltender, who could tell the rookie had a lot on his mind. The defender was agonizing over the decision to redshirt or play as a freshman, and he sought advice from Galloway. The quick conversation ended with Galloway giving him a vote of confidence, telling Megill he could earn the starting spot after seeing his aggressive style of play and eagerness to learn. In that moment, Galloway said he first realized Megill would be special. About five months later, his eye-opening hit against Denver proved it. And two years later, the lacrosse world knows his name as one of the top players in the game, just as Galloway predicted. ‘I told people his freshman year, ‘He’s going to go down as one of the best defenders that Syracuse University’s ever had,” Galloway said. ‘His physicality, his stick skills, he just has that special something that you’re looking for in a teammate.’ rjgery@syr.edu Comments Published on February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: rjgery@syr.educenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more