In March 2016, during a game against Princeton, Maryland men’s lacrosse midfielder Adam DiMillo heard his surgically repaired shoulder pop.
The previous summer, DiMillo had gone under the knife on that shoulder, before rehabbing for seven months to get back on the field for his sophomore season. So despite the pain, he demanded to stay in the game.
After a visit with the trainer, DiMillo did so, and played through the injury for the rest of the season before getting a second surgery.
At that time, DiMillo was a defender, but he switched back to his natural attack-minded position shortly after and now embraces his role as a two-way player, epitomizing a team-first mentality that coach John Tillman wants Maryland’s younger players to learn from.
“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.”
At Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School, DiMillo emerged as one of the country’s best offensive threats. Inside Lacrosse ranked him the No. 6 freshman midfielder and No. 12 overall recruit.
But when DiMillo arrived in College Park, Tillman needed more defensive depth, and asked him to change positions. Grateful for a role on a loaded Terps roster, DiMillo made the switch.
Initially, he visited the coaches’ offices two or three times a week, spending about an hour reviewing film during each session. He saved three or four hours each week to study film alone and turned to defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen for advice.
Despite not being comfortable on defense until the postseason, he appeared in every contest of his freshman season and notched 14 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.
“It’s little things that take you a long way defensively and it’s what we pride ourselves on,” DiMillo said. “Coming in, I had to find my way. … Your first year, you’re listening. In the second, you open up your mouth and you’re communicating a lot.”
DiMillo adjusted to the pace of opposing offenses in his second season, ending the year with nine ground balls and two caused turnovers despite the shoulder injury.
However, in the team’s meetings after Maryland’s overtime loss to North Carolina in the championship game, the coaching staff asked DiMillo if he would join the team’s offense. Again, he didn’t hesitate.
“It’s every guy’s dream to play offense at Maryland,” DiMillo said.
The West Seneca, New York, native made a list of goals for himself and worked to improve his shot after the second shoulder surgery. He tallied five goals and recorded an assist for last season’s championship team.
DiMillo has spent the last year-and-a-half taking extra shots with midfielder Connor Kelly and has been rewarded in his senior season. Through the Terps’ first six games, DiMillo has four scores, contributing to Maryland’s aggressive attack.
“He’s probably one of the best two-way guys in the country,” defenseman Bryce Young said. “He epitomizes what a Terp is.”
His experience has become a resource for the Terps’ younger players. Last season, after defenseman Curtis Corley earned a starting spot, he worked with DiMillo to improve his footwork.
Now, DiMillo prepares for games unsure of what his assignment will be each week. He can play on both ends of the field and also has a role on Maryland’s man-down unit. Unlike many players, has to familiarize himself with opponents’ offenses and their defenses.
“I do a lot of stuff that’s not flashy, but I don’t care that it’s not flashy,” DiMillo said. “Embrace your role. Everyone has one. Do the best with your role and try to contribute to the team as much as you can.”