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May 24, 2012
Jim Marlatt didn’t write the Notre Dame playbook, just his own version of it.
When the sophomore midfielder grabbed hold of head coach Kevin Corrigan’s marching orders earlier this year, Marlatt decided to customize them. Notre Dame’s top scorer at 18 goals and 12 assists figured he’d get fluent in the Irish system if he wrote it out himself.
“That’s just the way I learn them the best,” Marlatt said. “I’ll take loose leaf paper, not even looking at the playbook, trying to draw them out, thinking on the spot what the plays are.”
It’s worked for Marlatt, a first-team Big East selection following a freshman season confined to the sidelines after back surgery. Marlatt endured back pain during his lacrosse and hockey careers at River Hill High School in Maryland, leading to a stress fracture diagnosed as a cracked vertebrae.
The injury wiped out his freshman season before it got started.
“I was in a back brace 24-7 except for showering until December,” Marlatt said. “So the whole fall I was completely out. In the spring I was coming back doing a lot of rehab. My muscles were really atrophied, so every time I tried to shoot I’d pull something in my back.”
Turns out Marlatt doesn’t idle well.
In high school he challenged himself to lead a program that had never won a county championship to a state title. He told his coach that the team needed playbooks, then helped write them. He even drew one up for Keith Gonsouland, small enough that the River Hill head coach could keep it in his back pocket during practices.
“Almost instantaneously it disappeared,” Marlatt laughed. “He claims it was eaten (by his dog). He brought me a piece of paper to prove it.”
Marlatt finished his prep career as an All-American with 199 goals and 97 assists. He helped River Hill to a state championship game but not a state title. Now he’ll have a chance to help Notre Dame to its first championship, in the semifinals against Loyola on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ESPN2) and then against the winner of Duke-Maryland in Monday’s title game.
“Jim is a LAX-aholic,” Gonsouland said. “I’m not surprised by what he’s doing right now. The sport is always on his mind.”
That showed last season when Marlatt wasn’t playing. It showed in high school when Marlatt would text Gonsouland about lacrosse news. And it showed when Gonsouland, whose wife was pregnant, asked Marlatt to run a winter fundraising camp.
For three weekends the midfielder coached up a dozen middle schoolers. The program raised about one thousand dollars.
“He gets it and understands how to teach as well,” Gonsouland said. “What I’m seeing in him at Notre Dame, he knows what he’s doing within the framework of the offense. He knows how to execute it all. He’s unselfish, understands matchups, is willing not to force the issue.”
If Marlatt had his fingerprints all over the River Hill program, the sophomore still handles Notre Dame’s with gloves. He suggested plays to Gonsouland but doesn’t have that standing with Corrigan just yet.
Notre Dame’s head coach is just happy to have his next All-American midfielder set
“I’d be lying to say we thought he was going to come out and be our leading scorer in the midfield right away,” Corrigan said. “Guys who are kind of the gym rat guys, they’ve run so many scenarios through their head through the years that it’s almost like a remembrance of how to do something when they do something creative a lot of times.”
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