The memories flow fast and furious for those who knew Ed Blatz Jr.
"Biggest smile on his face."
The words are spoken both happily and forlornly because reality can be unforgiving. It has been 328 days since Blatz, a junior defenseman on the Georgetown men's lacrosse team, died at school.
To honor Blatz, several of his former teammates from Garden City High School — just east of New York City — and those who grew up with him are wearing No. 14, Blatz's high school jersey number. Tim Muller, a senior defenseman for fourth-ranked Maryland who grew up in Garden City but played for Chaminade, dumped his No. 36 jersey for No. 14, this year.
"It means a lot just to carry his memory," Muller said. "I do my best every day to make him happy, and we're playing for him as a group of friends to show that we miss him and that we want to play for him."
Besides Muller, Boston University senior midfielder Brian Badgett, Lafayette senior goalkeeper Matthew Cortese, Duke junior attackman Justin Guterding, Furman senior defenseman Joe Stone, Harvard sophomore faceoff specialist James Sullivan, and Vermont senior attackman Kyle Walsh are wearing No. 14. Richmond junior attackman Jack Worstell is wearing No. 22, Blatz's number at Georgetown.
Blatz's cause of death was never released, and players refused to talk about it when asked for this story. Efforts to reach the Blatz family were unsuccessful.
But to those who knew him, Blatz was perhaps the most versatile athlete to graduate from Garden City. He started at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety on the football team, manned the center position in basketball, and starred with a long-pole in lacrosse.
Badgett, one of the No. 15 Terriers' team captains, recalled that the Garden City football team had designed a specific play in the red zone to take advantage of Blatz's 6-foot-5 frame.
"It was called 'The Goon Special,'" Badgett said. "He was so tall. It was basically just the quarterback throwing it as high as he could, and he'd just jump for it and catch it, and it worked every time."
Sullivan said Blatz liked pushing himself to his physical limits.
"We would do all these sprints in lacrosse because our coach was tough, and Eddie would be the one on the end-line egging Coach on to give us more running or laughing because he wasn't tired," Sullivan said. "He was that good of an athlete. He would beat everybody by three-quarters of the length of the field. That's just something I always remember about Eddie. He was an absolute animal on the field, but he also had fun on the field."
Despite his athletic gifts, Blatz shied away from the spotlight, according to Muller.
"He never really talked about himself," Muller said. "We all knew how successful he was — going to Georgetown, playing lacrosse there, being a great athlete in high school. But he was always very humble about it. He could have easily talked about himself and he had a lot of reasons to, but he just never did."
One less-than-glorious athletic moment was when Blatz's errant shot struck Guterding under his left eye when they were seventh graders and fractured a bone in his face.
"I'll never forget that," said Guterding, a starter for the No. 13 Blue Devils. "It was actually finals week. So I couldn't take one of my finals because I couldn't see out of my eye. I actually thanked him for that."
The players all remember the day they learned of Blatz's death. Sullivan was in his dorm room when his girlfriend called him to confirm the bad news. He was picked up by Badgett, who lives about 10 minutes away, and the two stood in front of his car talking for a few hours about their mutual friend.
Guterding was informed by a friend a day later, on April 25. "I went right to Coach [John] Danowski's office and told him what happened, sobbing my eyes out," he said.
Muller found out the day Blatz died, after a team lunch. He considered immediately leaving campus and returning home, but the Terps were scheduled to play a game against Ohio State that evening.
"It was difficult," he said. "I went home after lunch and just lay in my room for a long time. I was debating whether I wanted to play or just go home. All the captains and Coach [John] Tillman gave me the option, but I decided it might be the best thing just to play for him and play for my teammates."
Minor details remind the friends of Blatz. Hotel rooms that include either No. 14 or 22. Even Eggland's Best eggs in a carton with the letters "EB" stamped on the package.
The players universally agree Blatz would try to discourage them from paying any sort of tribute to him. And that makes the pain of his loss cut a little deeper.
"Words can't describe how much I miss him," Guterding said. "Every single time I saw him, he put a smile on my face and everyone's face around him. I miss him more than ever."