When midfielder Adam Wright came to Johns Hopkins University four years ago, he brought with him one of the hardest shots in lacrosse, a rugged style of play and an imposing, near-perfect body.
As he winds down his college career with four games remaining, including today's matchup against Maryland at Homewood Field (2 p.m.), Wright is possibly the most dominating midfielder in college lacrosse. He's still a brute (6 feet 4, 195 pounds), but the body (especially the shoulders) has been injured, repaired, rebuilt, re-injured, retorn, rebuilt. . . .
"In February, there was a possibility of him redshirting because of the injured shoulders," Tony Seaman, Johns Hopkins' second-year coach, said of his senior captain. "But Adam never says a word about the injuries, and he's always working extra time after practice. He's the bread and butter of our team."
He's also the ice man. He puts ice on his shoulders before and after practices and games. This has been going on since Wright played football in his senior year at St. Anthony's High in Commack, N.Y. That's where he first separated his right shoulder and had surgery, but that didn't stop the scouts from Hopkins, Syracuse and North Carolina from recruiting him for lacrosse. Syracuse, North Carolina and Penn State wanted him for football, too.
"I really saw myself playing linebacker at Penn State; that's what I always wanted to do," said Wright. "But once I got hurt, all I saw was more operations if I played football. So I came to Hopkins to play lacrosse because it was smaller and I thought that would help me handle the academic stress better."
Wright and the Blue Jays seemed to fit perfectly. In his first season, Wright was a second-team midfielder and scored 14 goals and had an assist as Johns Hopkins made it to the national championship game, where it lost to Syracuse, 13-12. Wright missed one game that season because of shoulder problems.
Even though the Blue Jays slipped the next two seasons, Wright continued to progress, with 19 goals and one assist in 1990 and 17 goals and three assists last year, each time earning All-America honors.
Last year, though, Wright missed the Maryland game because he had separated his left shoulder a game earlier.
"I think about the day when I turn 40 or 50. Maybe I won't be able to reach my arms straight above my head," said Wright. "But when you're a senior, the injuries mount up and you play because it's your last season. If my arm was broken, I would still try to play. That's why I have a smile on my face every day. I hurt off the field, but not on it."
It's Wright who hurts people on the field. His shot is deadly from anywhere inside the restraining line, once he gets a running start. Wright's statistics (13 goals, two assists) aren't overwhelming this season because he's drawing the opposition's best long-stick midfielder or defenseman. Or sometimes both. Maryland probably will use either midfielder Dave Willard or defenseman Brian Burlace to stop Wright.
"He's big, he's fast and he runs over people," said Dave Cottle, Loyola's coach. "The best way to defense him is to not schedule them."
Seaman said: "Adam is a better player than he was a year ago. He really didn't start working on his left-hand shot until the end of last season, and now he can go with either hand. He plays on our defensive midfield, and for a big guy, he gets back in the hole well. His shot selection is better, especially on the extra man. He's a force."
Despite the praise and awards, Wright has not won a national championship at Johns Hopkins. That irritates him.
"There's a great tradition here," said Wright. "When I was a freshman, there wasn't any talk about just making it to the playoffs. Johns Hopkins' teams set their sights on the national championship game.
"That's what drives me," he continued. "This team could win a national championship, but we haven't peaked yet. We started out well, then Virginia slapped us in the face [a 15-9 loss] a week after we had a big, emotional win over Syracuse. We played well against North Carolina [14-8 loss], but they slapped us in the face a week later.
"This game against Maryland is a big game for them, and a big game for us. We've had a good week of practice, and I think we're ready emotionally. It's about time for us to start slapping somebody in the face."