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BRODIE MERRILL LEAVES INDELIBLE LEGACY FOR FUTURE BOX LACROSSE TALENT

“The time has come for me to retire from playing lacrosse.”

We never believed these words were possible for living legend Brodie Merrill to say, but apparently, they are. On September 13th, the 41-year-old Merrill released a heartfelt and emotional letter announcing that his playing career is at an end.

After nearly two decades of a prolific professional career, one of the most captivating and influential players to ever pick up a lacrosse stick will somehow no longer be competing in the sport that is dearest to his heart.

A small sampling of his accomplishments:

  • 9-time NLL All-Pro Team selection
  • 4-time World Indoor Lacrosse champion
  • 3-time Major Lacrosse League champion
  • 2-time USILA First Team All-American
  • 2-time Mann Cup champion
  • Athletic Director of The Hill Academy

Brodie Merrill in his early days with Portland and again in 2022 with San Diego.

Patrick Merrill, Brodie’s brother, who is the head coach and general manager of the San Diego Seals and founded the Hill Academy with Brodie and their sister, Tory, remembers the tremendous love his younger brother had for the game from the earliest days he was embracing the sport.

“From the time we were kids, he had a special love and connection with the game,” Patrick said. “He poured his whole life into the game of lacrosse. I think that the way he conducts himself is the way that any professional athlete in any sport should strive to be like on and off the floor. There was nothing on the lacrosse floor that he couldn’t do.”

Brodie wore his passion for the game with pride and left everything on the floor. That was evident to his competitors and the fans from the moment he began his professional career in 2006.

Former captain of the Philadelphia Wings

He could make you pay in many ways, whether he was attacking the turf with all his might to grab the loose ball for his team, moving the ball up in transition, or even scoring a goal every once in a while. The way he played with so much grit and toughness, paired with his menacing athleticism at 6’4”, 200+ pounds, was unlike anything many of his counterparts had ever seen. He was a beast of a man that you weren’t happy to see charging at you or smothering you with his suffocating defense.

“He practiced what he preached,” Patrick said. “He embodies what we want every student-athlete at the Hill to be. He wouldn’t ask one of his Hill players to do something that he wasn’t willing to do, and they saw that first hand. That’s what made him such a great leader, as well, but that’s also what helped the rest of us stay in shape and want to improve throughout the course of our careers.”

Vancouver Warriors defenseman Reid Bowering was fortunate enough – or perhaps unfortunate – to go up against Brodie in the late stages of his career. What surprised Bowering was how a guy 16 years his senior could still be one of the most haunting players on the floor.

Up against Dan Dawson, who also retired this offseason

“The big thing that I thought was, how has this guy done what he’s done for so long and is still so effective out there on the floor?” Bowering said. “I can’t even imagine – after one NLL season, your body is just gassed. So, it’s pretty cool he was able to do it for so long.”

In his rookie year with the Portland Lumberjax, Brodie, the NLL’s first overall selection in 2005, was scooping up more than a dozen loose balls regularly – he even had a couple games where he grabbed more than 20 – and had a handful of 5+ point games.

He would continue to excel on the floor throughout his 17-year box career, ultimately finishing with an NLL career record of 2,778 loose balls – that’s 261 more loose balls than the next-best on the list, Jim Veltman – and an NLL third-best 257 caused turnovers. The caused turnover numbers are even more extraordinary because the NLL didn’t begin tracking CTOs until Brodie’s sixth season in the league.

At an outdoor practice with the Seals

Brett Mydske played his first two seasons in the league (2010 and 2011) with Brodie and the Saskatchewan Rush. He’ll never forget the lessons Brodie taught him both on and off the floor. That’s because what made Brodie such a talented player was that he did everything he was supposed to: keep his body and mind right for as many minutes of every day as possible.

“He’s taught me so much, obviously from being a defender like myself, but even more so by how you need to carry yourself on and off the floor,” Mydske said. “… there’s nobody that wants to win more than Brodie Merrill. He’s the ultimate competitor, and you can see with the number of years he’s put in in the NLL, MLL and PLL – he’s just been playing year-round lacrosse with no breaks.

“I believe he created a new style of play. Many players today try to [emulate] his transition game, but no one will be able to do it as well as [he did] for as long as he did.”

Taking part in a ceremonial faceoff with Shawn Williams and Kyle Miller

Brodie made sure he would be remembered as a legend of the game, but he never wanted it to be just because of how he played and what he accomplished, although that was a piece of it. He wanted to ensure that the generations of players who loved the game would have the training and know-how to try and one day be as good, if not better, than he was.

Guys like Ian MacKay have also seen Brodie’s efforts to grow the game first hand. MacKay, an Orangeville, Ontario product just like Brodie, also went through The Hill Academy. Their first interactions many years ago were actually based around the Reebok Top-100 event run by the academy.

MacKay emphasized that without Brodie’s help and support, he might not have pursued a career in field lacrosse. His years at The Hill Academy gave MacKay the tools he needed to become the elite lacrosse player he is today in the box and on the field.

The rise of players like MacKay and the retirements of Brodie and Dan Dawson point to a generational shift. Players like Brodie have been around long enough to see their students make a name for themselves.

It is a rare and emotional sight. It is unusual, albeit inevitable, to see players who defined a generation decide they can no longer compete after leading the way for so many years.

With the Edmonton Rush

“I knew from the first time I played with [Brodie] that he was one of the greatest to ever do it, and he was halfway through his playing career at that point and that he was a future hall of famer,” MacKay said. “It’s going to be weird without him and Dan Dawson, those types of legacy and legendary types of players in the league. They’ve been in it for so long. It feels like they’ve been on every expansion team or in every dispersal draft – they’re just these legendary players that set the standard of what it takes to be a professional lacrosse player.”

Brodie’s impact on the game will live on forever, whether because of what he did in the box or what he and his family continue to do at The Hill Academy. He was a one-of-a-kind player and created a template for how to become one of the greatest box lacrosse players in the world.

There will never be another Brodie Merrill, but thankfully, there will be many who learned from him, and they will carry on his legacy with pride.

NLL