COLLEGE PARK — Any trepidation Brett Makar might have had about donning the coveted No. 1 jersey for Maryland men’s lacrosse this season was put to rest after a conversation with Jared Bernhardt, who graduated in 2021 as the program’s all-time points leader and second Tewaaraton Award winner.
“Jared reached out to me,” Makar said. “He knew I wasn’t necessarily a number guy, and I know Jared’s not a number guy. But he kind of just texted me and gave me some nice words that I really appreciated. So once I kind of heard that, I felt comfortable moving forward.”
On Saturday afternoon, Makar, a graduate student defenseman, became the first non-offensive player in more than 30 years to wear No. 1 for the Terps as they opened the season with a 15-4 romp over No. 20 Richmond at SECU Stadium. Makar caused a game-high four turnovers and scooped up five ground balls and contributed to a defense that shut out the Spiders for a 43:41 stretch spanning the entire second and third quarters.
Senior goalkeeper Logan McNaney made 12 saves and gave up only three goals, senior attackman Daniel Maltz racked up a game-high five points on two goals and three assists and junior attackman Owen Murphy scored a game-best four goals for No. 2 Maryland, which has won 30 consecutive season openers dating to the 1994 season.
That Makar was coach John Tillman’s choice to wear the number that has been long associated with the program’s most dangerous offensive weapon was not lost on his teammates. But they fully endorsed the decision.
“It is something new, and I think it’s the right choice,” McNaney said. “He definitely deserves wearing No. 1.”
To be clear, Makar is not the first non-offensive player to wear the No. 1 jersey. Goalkeeper Bill Reilly started wearing the number in 1972, and it was passed down to fellow goalies Rich Shassian (1977-81), Jeff Brouse (1982), Robert Virden (1984-85) and Melvin Stephens (1989-91) and defenseman Todd Harrison (1993).
But since the mid-1990s, when Andrew Whipple began wearing No. 1, the tradition has involved the jersey going to the offense’s top playmaker. That list includes Whipple (1995-98), Mike Mollot (1999-2003), Joe Walters (2004-06), Grant Catalino (2008-11), Mike Chanenchuk (2012-14), Matt Rambo (2015-17), Connor Kelly (2018), Bernhardt (2019-21) and Logan Wisnauskas(2022).
That group has accounted for 23 All-America honors (nine first-team), three Tewaaraton Awards, 15 Final Four appearances, 10 NCAA Tournament finals and two national championships (2017 and 2022). But Makar — no wallflower himself as a two-time All-American selection (one first-team in 2022) and the 2022 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year — said he doesn’t feel any stress to match his predecessors’ accomplishments.
“I think the only pressure I kind of feel is to guys like Jared and Logan and just the kind of guys they were outside of lacrosse,” he said. “These guys were great teammates more than anything, guys that you could count on, guys that you could trust and had a big part in the leadership role that I was able to come into because I was able to follow guys like Jared and Logan throughout my first years at Maryland.”
That refusal to give in to the extra scrutiny helped convince Tillman — who considered candidates such as McNaney, graduate student midfielder Kyle Long and senior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman — to turn to Makar. He also pointed out Makar’s evolution as a leader.
“If you saw any of the huddles from last year, he kind of was our heartbeat, he was our emotional leader, he was the loudest guy,” Tillman said. “So it just seemed to make sense.”
McNaney, who said he preferred to retain his No. 30 jersey, said Makar exemplifies the program’s “Be the Best” philosophy.
“I think it’s just a testament to how hard he works and the fact that he embodies being the best more than anyone else on the team,” McNaney said. “I think it’s special to see someone care so much and work so hard. And just his attitude about everything, it’s amazing because it kind of rubs off on everyone else.”
Tillman said he polled current and former players about candidates for the No. 1 jersey and waited until after the fall semester to make his decision. He said Makar’s response to Tillman’s offer matched those of his teammates.
“Much like some of the other guys, their first inkling is, ‘Well, I don’t want to be defined by a number. I’m more than a number,’ and that to me is the mentality you want to have, someone who [knows] that is not really his focus,” Tillman said. “Their focus is always being the best teammate, the best player, the best person that they can be. So that’s why it’s just another reason he’s a great choice.”
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Makar might not lead the nation in ground balls or caused turnovers, but excels at preventing his assignments from erupting for goals and assists. Richmond senior attackman Dalton Young — who amassed 62 points on 39 goals and 23 assists last spring to help the Spiders capture the Southern Conference Tournament crown and their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance — finished with two goals on six shots, but only one of those goals occurred against Makar.
Makar said he never wore No. 1 in lacrosse, but did wear the number for a few seasons as a running back and outside linebacker for the Yorktown High School football team in New York. He chuckled at the memory of being tossed a No. 43 practice jersey as a freshman by former offensive coordinator and current Holy Cross coach J.L. Reppert.
Tillman predicted that Makar will uphold the No. 1 tradition.
“He’s done so much for our program — not that the other guys haven’t, so many guys have given a lot to the program – and knowing who he is, he’s a pretty special and unique guy,” he said. “I think he’ll represent No. 1 very well.”
No. 2 Maryland at Loyola Maryland
Saturday, 1 p.m.