Best Player in the World
Pretty sweet handle, you have to admit.
Understandably, it makes Brodie Merrill blush a bit.
“You never really get used to hearing that,” said Merrill, who had the title bestowed on him by Inside Lacrosse magazine. “I just recognize it as being a huge compliment.
I try not to dwell on it.”
He may not dwell on it, but the rest of the lacrosse world does. And for good reason.
In the NLL, where players specialize in offence or defence, Merrill is the best of a rare breed who plays both ends of the floor.
He also takes face-offs, and will drop the mitts if need be.
Along with dominating the indoor game, Merrill is considered one of the best — if not the best — defender in the outdoor field lacrosse game.
His list of accolades is longer than your arm, but include some notable highlights:
* Was the first-overall pick in the 2005 NLL draft by the now-defunct Portland Lumberjax, and went on to win rookie of the year and defensive player of the year honours his first season. He has been the standard to which all defensive transition players are held to ever since.
* Was a two-time All-American and two-time finalist for NCAA player of the year while playing field lacrosse at Georgetown University.
* Has won two Canadian national senior-A championships with the Brampton Excelsior.
* Won rookie-of-the-year honours and named top defender every season he has played in the professional MLL field-lacrosse league, winning a championship last season with the Toronto Nationals.
* Helped Canada win gold at the 2006 world field lacrosse championship.
One of the most recognizable players in the game, Reebok has featured him in ads and videos for their products, and he’s become one of the poster boys for the NLL, which usually hypes its offensive stars, not defensive standouts.
If all that wasn’t enough, he serves as dean of students/head lacrosse coach at The Hill Academy, a private prep school in Ontario run by his family (including older brother Patrick, who plays for the Orlando Titans) that helps student-athletes get scholarships south of the border playing NCAA field lacrosse.
Merrill realizes how lucky he is to be one of the only players in the part-time NLL who makes his living solely through lacrosse.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to do that,” he said.
“I love the game. I’m fortunate to be able to not only play it, but make it my livelihood.”
Merrill, not surprisingly, was integral in the Rush’s turnaround this season, as they made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Known as one of the fittest players in the league, Merrill’s arrival in Edmonton was trumpeted and he lived up to all the expectations placed on his shoulder pads.
“I didn’t really see it as pressure, just as a big challenge,” said Merrill.
“And I wanted to embrace that challenge.”
Lethal in the transition game, the Roughnecks know containing Merrill is key to winning Saturday.
Calgary transition threat Jeff Shattler — a former teammate of Merrill’s in Brampton — will be one player tasked with slowing No. 17 down.
“Just stay in front of him,” said Shattler. “We have to be floor-balanced. When we take a shot, one guy has to stay back, playing safety almost … If we can get one guy back as a safety, we’ll be fine.”
Easier said than done.