Early in the third quarter against former Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina March 26, Maryland junior midfielder Colin Heacock cleverly got behind a Tar Heels defender to catch a pass from Connor Kelly. Heacock then unleashed a hard low shot that found the back of the net just as he absorbed a jarring hit that sent him flying to the turf.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Boys' Latin grad has gotten used to that type of attention all season. Nonetheless, Heacock has come up huge for the Terps, who are in the hunt for their first NCAA Division I title since 1975.
"Being an upperclassman, I am trying to be more of a leader on and off the field." Heacock said. "I want to be more of a role model and help the younger guys out and adjust to the college game. I want to do whatever I can to help the team out."
Heacock has been a force in the midfield for the Terps. He is able to help the Terps set up their attack and often draws double-teams that free up other players.
Maryland is looking to take the next step after appearing in four NCAA Final Fours since 2011. The Terps advanced to the national title game in 2011, 2012 and 2015, losing to Virginia (9-7), Loyola (9-3) and Denver (10-5), respectively.
"Our team has done well," Heacock said. "Everyone is practicing hard and staying after, doing what they have to do in order to get better. I think the team is coming together nicely."
Heacock has steadily improved since arriving at Maryland in 2014 as a highly touted recruit. Last season, he appeared in all 19 games (with two starts), finishing with 18 goals and three assists (21 points). This year, he has been a mainstay in the starting lineup.
Still, he keeps working to enhance his game and sharpen his skills.
"There is always room for improvement in every aspect of your game, whether it's shooting, passing or dodging," Heacock said. "It's just a little bit of everything."
Heacock's success doesn't surprise his high school coach at Boys' Latin, the legendary Bob Shriver, who retired after the 2015 season. Shriver watched Heacock steadily grow as a player, and his talents have translated well to the college game.
"Colin is as gifted an athlete as I've ever coached -- big, fast, strong and with a great motor," Shriver said. "He was a reluctant player early -- just sort of let other guys do their thing, but over time, he learned that he could have the same impact if he was a little bit more selfish, quite honestly."
Shriver was also impressed with Heacock's off-field persona. His charisma made him a popular figure on the Boys' Latin campus.
"I'd be surprised if you ever talked to anyone who has played with Colin if they said a bad word about him," Shriver said. "He's genuine and treats everyone with respect and is simply a great teammate, so everyone likes being around him, which makes him a natural leader because he's so well-liked."
Heacock relishes his days as a student at Boys' Latin, where he was a four-year letterman under Shriver. As a player, he was named a 2013 Under Armour and US Lacrosse High School All-American and finished with a goal and an assist for the South team. He was also named a 2013 NILCA first-team All-American and was rated as the fourth-best freshman attackman in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse.
Heacock said Shriver had a tremendous influence on him as a player.
"I had great teachers, and Coach Shriver helped me a lot on and off the field and in the classroom," Heacock said. "It helped me develop into a man. [Shriver] liked to have fun when he was on the field, but at the same time, he was serious about it. He was just an outgoing guy and real helpful."
Because of his size and speed, Heacock creates matchup problems for most opponents. However, he is always prepared to adjust his game, depending on the opposition's game plan. Sometimes, that means being more aggressive, going one-on-one with defenders or trying to lure a double-team to give his teammates additional space to work. Whatever works for the best of the team, works for Heacock.
"Sometimes, I like to use my body, and sometimes I try to run away from the defender," Heacock said. "It just depends on the situation. If I have to draw a double-team to find an open man, I will try to get into a defender a little bit."
Heacock plans to build on his leadership role at Maryland. When he graduates, he plans to remain in sports in some capacity to work with a younger generation of athletes. It's only fitting he would like to remain around sports because of the athleticism that runs in his family.
His brother, Ryan, played lacrosse and basketball at St. Mary's College, while another brother, Matt, played football at Salisbury.
"I want to be a role model and help them out, so they can play at the collegiate level and meet their future goals," Heacock said. "That would be awesome."
Shriver has not been surprised by Heacock's success at the college level. He would be even less surprised that Heacock would become even more successful in life.
"He's a gifted kid on not just the athletic field," Shriver said. "Because of his good nature and kind way [of] treating people, he gives the impression he's just a good old boy -- he's a much smarter kid than most realize."
Issue 220: April 2016