Adam DiMillo is an "Ironman" for the Maryland men's lacrosse team.
Entering this year's NCAA Tournament, the senior appeared in 72 career games, second-most in the NCAA behind teammate Connor Kelly (73).
DiMillo's streak is impressive considering he played through two shoulder injuries while transitioning from a short-stick defensive midfielder to a two-way player.
In short, DiMillo's unselfish play and work ethic embodies the spirit of the Terps lacrosse program. He was named team captain this season and was also the 48th overall pick of the 2018 Major League Lacrosse Draft by the Charlotte Hounds.
"It's been a dream come true," DiMillo said about playing at Maryland. "Every young kid coming up through the ranks -- lower school, middle school, high school -- watches Maryland lacrosse on TV. Just being able to be a part of it and being in the locker room, is a dream come true."
DiMillo came to Maryland as a highly touted midfielder from Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, N.Y. He was a three-time U.S. Lacrosse High School All-American and was ranked as the No. 6 freshman midfielder in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse.
DiMillo scored 238 goals and had 132 assists for 370 points at Bishop Timon-St. Jude and won the Tom Borelli Award, given to the best senior lacrosse player in Western New York in 2014.
However, when he enrolled at Maryland, head coach John Tillman asked him to focus on defense because the Terps needed the depth. DiMillo embraced the opportunity and appeared in all 19 games as a short-stick defensive midfielder during his first year in College Park, Md.
"You come to Maryland and Coach wants to develop all of the guys into all-around players," DiMillo said. "I saw playing defense as an opportunity to get better as a player. I ended up really helping my game, understanding both offensive and defensive concepts. I've gained a well-rounded understanding of the game."
Shoulder injuries during DiMillo's first two years limited what he could do as an attacking midfielder. As a result, the new position allowed him stay on the field and pick up more nuances of the game.
"He's a guy who's just a stable, measured, confident guy," Tillman said. "When you have younger guys, you point out that's the kind of guy you want to be. Adam DiMillo is a great role model on our team."
After appearing in all 19 games as a sophomore, DiMillo got back to his natural position as an attacking midfielder the next year. He scored his first career goal at St. Joseph's Feb. 14, 2017 and played in every game that year. DiMillo's junior season culminated with two goals against Ohio State in the 2017 NCAA national championship game to help the Terps to a 9-6 win and their first title since 1975.
This season, DiMillo continued to be a key contributor. Maryland finished the regular season 11-2 and had a key 8-7 triple overtime win against Johns Hopkins that clinched a fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season championship. That game was played in front of a crowd of 10,000 at Homewood Field.
"It was awesome," DiMillo said. "You live for environments like that, 10,000-plus fans. You don't get to experience a lot of things like that, especially during the regular season. You kind of see it down the stretch in the playoffs. It's nice to get that type of game under your belt before you hit the postseason."
DiMillo has also become a student of the game at Maryland. He closely studies each opponent to pick up on their tendencies, and that dedication has translated to success on the field.
"We watch a lot of film as a team," DiMillo said. "Individually, you try to watch as many games as you can to understand your opponent."
That type of game-planning has been especially important in the Big Ten. Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Rutgers have all spent time in the top 10 of the national polls this season.
The Blue Jays got a measure of revenge for the setback in the regular-season finale by beating the Terps, 13-10, in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament.
"Nobody believed where the conference is today," DiMillo said. "There were two Big Ten teams in the national championship last year. It just shows that lacrosse is getting better across the board. The Big Ten is right up there with the best conferences in lacrosse."
As a senior, DiMillo tries to help some of the younger players improve their game. It's a "pay it forward" concept, because DiMillo was able to get valuable advice as an underclassman from players such as All-American Isaiah Davis-Allen.
DiMillo, who has missed just one game in four seasons in College Park, Md., also has the type of experience and success that can inspire a younger player.
"I've had an opportunity to play in just about every game," DiMillo said. "I've learned a lot from my mistakes. I passed that knowledge onto the young guys, especially with the short-stick middies."
DiMillo, who is majoring in finance, is considering a career in sales after graduation. He also wants to eventually coach and help young players thrive in the game.
"I plan on giving back to the game as much as it's given to me," DiMillo said.
For now, he has the Terps focused on repeating as champions.
"Every year, we restart," DiMillo said. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten regular season and tournament and then win the national championship. That's been our goal every year since I've been here. There's no pressure to repeat, but it is one of our goals we intend to accomplish."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Issue 244: May 2018
Originally published May 15, 2018