By Rachel Villari | 1/28/14 4:00 PM
If there’s one person in the league that knows a thing or two about duty, it’s Garrett Thul. The former Army attackman and second-year player honorably upholds the American way of life in his daily services and is now vying for a spot on the final Team USA roster, this time to represent his country in a slightly different way.
Over the weekend in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the 49 US hopefuls participated in an intra-squad scrimmage in the final test to help Team USA head coach Richie Meade determine the final 23-man roster he would like to take to the World Championship Games this July in Denver, Colo. Rising to the occasion, Thul netted two outside goals and made his physical presence felt, pairing with New York Lizards’ Rob Pannell as an attacking force to be reckoned with. His heavy style of play and offensive contributions were enough to earn himself the Most Outstanding Player award of the game. Will it be enough to secure him a spot on the final roster, though?
“It would be such an honor to represent my country on the lacrosse field,” Thul said when asked about his opportunities to try out for the national team. “I know what it means to serve and wear the red, white, and blue—I do it on a daily basis—but playing on Team USA is a very unique way for me to do that. It would just be an honor.”
Some may have been pleasantly surprised by Thul’s outstanding performance at the Champion Challenge over the weekend, but those who know anything about the diligent athlete also knew that he would continue to demonstrate his stick savvy ways as he continues to advance in the professional lacrosse world.
Admittedly, Thul thought he was one of the bubble players for Team USA. But, when reminded about his two goals in the Play for Parkinson’s challenge in the fall and his Most Outstanding Player award just recently received, he grants: “I’ve been playing my best lacrosse and trying to show the coaches that I’m a hustle kind of player and a physical kind of player, and I think I showed all those things in the game. I think I kind of came out of the blue,” he laughed. “But I hope I eliminated any concerns Coach Meade might have had.”
Thul was a standout player with West Point Army, merely a single goal shy of notching four consecutive 40-goal seasons (he scored 41 goals in 2010, 42 in 2011, 39 in 2012, and 41 in 2013). Upon being drafted 21st overall into the 2013 MLL Collegiate Draft, he joined the Hamilton Nationals, following his senior year, for a season ending in a playoff run cut short in the semifinals. “I had a blast,” he recalls when asked about his rookie season. “It was a great learning experience for me. Going from the college game to the pro game was a bit of a jump. It’s a whole lot faster and you’ve got guys who have been playing at that level for 10 years or so in some cases, so, the learning curve was a little steep at times, but Hamilton gave me a chance. And I was eventually able to become a little bit of an impact player for them.”
In the six games Thul played with the Nationals, he scored ten goals, three of which were two-pointers. “I think playing in the major leagues really brought my game to another level.” And so did playing in the Champion Challenge over the weekend, alongside Pannell, and Ohio Machine’s Steele Stanwick (one goal, two assists) and Marcus Holman (two goals). “I really idolize a lot of those guys, and then to be out there, playing with them, it was amazing and it’s brining my game to another level, a level I didn’t even think I could reach. Playing with the best brings out the best, I guess,” he mused. Especially playing with Pannell, who Thul contends “is by far one of the most talented lacrosse players there is anywhere. He’s a very talented on-ball guy and he’s a great creator, which makes my job as an off-ball guy or a shooter a lot easier.”
Thul’s been working on making a big impact this year, determined to muscle his way onto the Team USA Roster with his commanding presence on the field. As someone who understands the importance of fighting for what you believe in and representing your team with pride, Thul would be humbled and honored by the chance to don the red, white, and blue for the national team this summer. Until then, he excitedly awaits the approach of his second season in the League, this time with the inaugural Florida Launch. “I’m really looking forward to it. A new team, new beginnings, fresh starts; we’ve got a lot of great guys coming down to Florida with us and I’m really excited about it.”