Feb. 29, 2012
By Mackenzie Meter
David McCormack is just an average University of Michigan freshman. He's a lifelong Wolverine fan, he struggles to manage his time and do his own laundry, and he is undecided on a major. However, there is one big thing that you probably don't know about David, he's from Ohio. And he just so happens to start for Michigan's inaugural men's varsity lacrosse team after walking on the squad last Fall.
Though the varsity lacrosse program is in its first year, McCormack is already redefining what it means to be a walk-on. Fortunately for the team, he sets the bar quite high. Fresh off the preseason, the 5-11, 155-pound attackman showcased his hard work in an exhibition game against fellow Ohio-resident Denison University, posting three goals and an assist. In the course of the first two regular-season games, though both losses for the fledgling Wolverines, McCormack tallied two goals and two assists.
McCormack, an impressive lacrosse player in high school -- he was second team All-Ohio his senior year -- came out of the woodwork when he decided to try his luck with Michigan's team last fall.
"I came here and hoped to walk on the team and I saw that there was a tryout listed. I came out that day and tried out and fortunately enough, I made the team."
Fortunate indeed; assistant coach Judd Lattimore, also a first-year with the university and its lacrosse program, said that David showed a lot of potential in walk-on tryouts.
"He had really good stick skills and he was a good athlete. He started off on our second team and he worked really hard this fall. We had an injury with one of our captains, so we gave Dave a chance and he did exceptionally well. He did better than I think any of us expected him to do."
McCormack attributes his success to a strict preseason regimen by strength and conditioning coach Bo Sandoval, as well as captain-led practices in the fall, which he says vastly improved the team's stick skills coming in to the season. Coach Lattimore noted that McCormack's biggest improvements are his strength and weight thanks to the conditioning program, which translates to better handling on the field. Yet Lattimore is also quick to point out that David's natural ability has been his greatest trump card.
"He's very smart and quite frankly, we haven't had to do a whole lot with him. He's just kind of naturally had a lot of stuff."
Natural talent, as well as a willingness to go the extra mile, has allowed McCormack to excel in both basketball and lacrosse, his two high-school sports. He says certain skills have crossed over from the hardwood to the field and helped his transition to a Division I program.
"I think field vision has translated a lot from basketball to lacrosse and also just being a member of a team, trying to be a leader, trying as much as you can to help your team win."
Coach Lattimore agrees, "He really knows how to move with the other guys on the field. He's very aware of spacing and how to move without the ball. A lot of what we do is similar to basketball and I think that has a huge part of what he's doing."
As a member of Team One, a moniker that head coach John Paul began using as a tribute to the U-M football team, leadership is certainly an important trait. McCormack, as well as the other freshmen, look to upperclassmen on the team to provide guidance, rides, and from time to time, food. In fact, sharing rides in senior Rob Healy's car to and from practice with fellow freshman attacker Andrew Portnoy has led to a friendship between the two, and has helped to make the transition to college life a little bit easier. Additionally, the team has been very welcoming in general, though McCormack was a relative newcomer during the preseason.
"Coming in as a walk-on, I was kind of nervous about what my interactions with the team would be, not knowing any of the guys. But right away they took me in, asking millions of questions about where I was from, what kinds of things I liked. Just as the season has gone on it has developed into a really good friendship. I can definitely call those guys good friends and they're always there for me if I need anything."
It might seem unusual for a native of the Buckeye state to feel at home in Michigan, but in addition to his strong relationship with his team, McCormack has roots in both the state and at the university. His uncle, Dr. Ed Wojtys, was formerly the team doctor for Michigan football but now joins his nephew on the lacrosse team as their team doctor. McCormack credits going to football games with his uncle as what originally triggered his favoritism towards the university, as well as having a strong connection to the state through his relatives who reside in Michigan.
With his uncommon background but common thirst for victory, McCormack represents the perfect allegory for Michigan men's lacrosse in that his story shows how talent, hard work and a deep commitment to leadership can result in impressive accomplishments. Both his career and the men's lacrosse team as a varsity sport are in their infancy, but like any great story, there is always an exciting and uncertain beginning.