Well before Cody Albrecht was a sixth-year senior on the Maryland men's soccer team, the midfielder enjoyed a season for the ages in 2010 at DeMatha Catholic High School, mere minutes away from College Park, Md.
Albrecht led the Stags to a 24-0 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title. The Silver Spring, Md., native scored 10 goals and recorded a Maryland-record 31 assists during the 2010 season. He was named
Washington Post's All-Metro Player of the Year and the Gatorade Maryland Boys' Soccer Player of the Year.
Albrecht's brother, Kyle, had previously played at DeMatha and won three WCAC titles, a point of motivation for Cody, who hadn't won a WCAC championship during his first three years with the Stags.
"It was a dream year. It was something out of a storybook," Albrecht said of his 2010 season. "In my first three years, we never got it done. So to be able to do it in my senior year, with some of my best friends and some guys I still play with today ... and do it for DeMatha, my school, was awesome. It was something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
After conquering the WCAC, Albrecht was set to take on the Big East by committing to St. John's University. Albrecht loved his visit to St. John's, immediately meshed with the coaching staff and saw it as a perfect fit as a soccer player and in the classroom.
The start of his college career, however, was anything but perfect -- it was delayed by about 24 months. He tore the ACL in his left knee during his second day with the Red Storm in August 2011 when his knee gave out on a cut he made on the pitch.
Albrecht worked his way back and participated in workouts during the summer in 2012. Just before the first game of his redshirt freshman season, he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during practice. Once again, a seemingly innocent cut he made was to blame, and he's never been able to figure out if anything aside from bad luck contributed to his injuries.
Albrecht's 2011 and 2012 seasons at St. John's were wiped out, and instead of building on his success at DeMatha, what he got instead was two years of hard rehab.
"You go through a few stages when you have injuries like that. You're angry -- ‘Why me?' -- and then kind of go through a phase where you start to pick it up," said Albrecht, who credited his immediate family, including his mother, Laurie, and father, Paul as being a vital support system. "I had a great support system, and that was something that really kept me pushing.
"When you have those really bad days during rehab and when you think that it's just never going to get better, they were always there to say, ‘Hey, it's going to get better. You're going to play again. It'll get better at some point.'"
What Albrecht didn't know while he was rehabbing was that his injuries would allow him to play college soccer at Ludwig Field, the same field where he had attended Maryland matches as a kid.
Albrecht fought back from his second knee injury in time to compete in all 20 matches and start nine for the Red Storm during the 2013 season -- his third year on campus but first on the field. Albrecht initially wore a knee brace, but didn't need to wear it once he mentally overcame his injury and hasn't worn a brace since.
Albrecht scored his first college career goal Oct. 8, 2013 during a win against La Salle. A year later, in 2014, he started all 18 games for St. John's and notched two assists. But the statistics didn't matter as much as being on the pitch with his teammates.
"Getting back and being able to play now and play my last two years at St. John's was awesome," Albrecht said. "I cherish now, and I did cherish each game I was able to play, because I know it can be taken from you very quickly."
Though he wasn't able to play soccer during his first two years at St. John's, he was still successfully working toward a degree in marketing, and he graduated after four years on campus. Albrecht was able to search for other options as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility on the pitch remaining.
Albrecht considered staying at St. John's, whose coaching staff was open to keeping him for the rest of his career. But Albrecht had other ideas. Maryland didn't recruit him out of high school, but he wanted to come to College Park. Albrecht grew up nearby, went to games at Maryland Stadium, Cole Field House and Ludwig, and his dad went to the school.
"Maryland's been in my blood," Albrecht said.
He reached out to Maryland, and Terps head coach Sasho Cirovski took interest in him.
"We do a great job of recruiting, but we're not super aggressive in the process. That drew us, too -- the fact that he really wanted to come to Maryland," Cirovski said. "He's a Maryland guy, and I think he always had an itch to be with us, and I think we felt the same way. And when we brought him in, it was a great fit. Cody's a winner; he's a competitor and we really felt his maturity and his leadership would be important."
Albrecht is still the leader he's been his whole career as a soccer player -- he was named co-captain this year along with goalkeeper Cody Niedermeier and defender Alex Crognale, both seniors -- but he's become a different player in the six years since he posted record-breaking offensive numbers at DeMatha.
"He plays as our defensive midfielder," Cirovski said. "That's a key leadership position. He's tasked with the idea of breaking up plays but also helping build our attack. He's a very focused individual, but he's also really tough. He took some shots off the line last year, saved a few goals. And he's certainly never seen a tackle he didn't like. He's a tough kid."
Albrecht played in eight games in 2015 as he transitioned from being with St. John's for four years. It took time for Albrecht to adapt to the Terps' culture and, as Albrecht put it, "understand what it takes to be a Maryland soccer player." But in the second half of last season, Albrecht "was such a key component of our team that now he's ... a co-captain," Cirovski said.
The Terps' expectation is Albrecht will continue to improve as Maryland's defensive midfielder. Crognale said Albrecht blocked shots in big games last year and became a player the Terps could rely on to be a vocal leader on the pitch, win balls in the midfield and bring energy to the game.
"Just to see him grow ... and get those relationships with myself, the back four and our attacking guys defensively," Crognale said of his expectations for Albrecht. "Defensively, when we need stops [or] when we're in their attacking third and they're trying to get out, Cody's the guy we see to win the balls or to talk to guys to put us in good positions. So he's a huge part of what we try and do."
It's been a long, winding road for Albrecht to get to College Park, which he said has made him a better soccer player and person during his six-year college career, including two major knee injuries. He thinks ending his career at Maryland is something "out of a storybook."