Ready to compete, every Red Devil swipes their glove across one word displayed on the door as they leave their Durden Center locker room. "HEART" – hustle, enthusiasm, attitude, respect, toughness. It's what Dave Webster's men's lacrosse program lives by. The mantra will forever fuel two teammates, who are elevating Dickinson and Division III lacrosse to professional heights.
Dylan Maher '18 and Nate Usich '19 dominated Biddle Field, with Maher driving to the cage through defenders and dunking it home, and Usich throwing transition takeaway checks against the nation's top talent. The attacker and long-stick middie combined for a legendary resume of program records, All-American and Scholar All-America honors, NCAA victories, and the program's fourth Centennial Conference Championship. The Red Devil duo is now reunited, keeping their competitive fire alive with the Atlanta Blaze of Major League Lacrosse (MLL). Maher and Usich become the second and third Red Devils to join MLL teams, after 3-time Centennial Conference champion and 2013 USILA Division III Player of the Year Brandon Palladino '13 paved Dickinson's pro path with the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
Maher fired in his first professional goal on June 29th against the Bayhawks, with plenty of Dickinson heart alongside him. Usich, Webster, and assistant coach Pete Donley were on the sidelines to celebrate the moment.
The trio connected with Assistant AD Christian Payne to reflect on their preparation, and share their insight on what makes the D3 to professional lacrosse dream possible.
- - -
Christian Payne: Dylan and Nate - what's it like to be a professional lacrosse player?
Dylan Maher: It's been an amazing experience so far. I went into training camp with no expectations, other than to play as hard as I could and to stick to what I learned under Coach Webby (Webster) at Dickinson. It has certainly been challenging, but an awesome experience to say the least. Practice is high paced, and extremely fun. The level of competition in the league is outstanding and I'm lucky to play against and with some of the best in the world.
Nate Usich: Representing the Division 3 level and especially the Centennial Conference is special. All of our athletes and coaches put so much work into this with very little promise of professional outcomes and certainly out of the national spotlight. We do it because we love the game. While I'm playing at the next level, I'm going to bring that love to the field every time. I am so lucky to be able to continue playing, and I will always be playing for the Red Devils, the Centennial Conference, and D3.
CP: Nate - how much prep have you done to get to this point? What are you most excited for in becoming a professional player?
NU: It's hard to remember a full week since I got serious with lacrosse in high school where I did not have the stick in my hand. When I was younger, I would see someone better than me hit a check or get a great ground ball, and then I would practice that play until I got a hold of it. For me, it was always about attacking my weaknesses. I remember people would joke that I couldn't cover from behind or that I was only a takeaway guy, or I wasn't great in transition, or that I was slow. Usually, there was some truth to the comical criticism.
I would take that stuff to heart and improve it. I didn't want any weaknesses.
What I am most excited for in pro lacrosse is seeing how my work has paid off against the best of the best. Professional is a whole other level compared to Division 3. Everyone is fast, everyone is strong, everyone can shoot. I pride myself in rising to the top and standing out in every lacrosse setting I find myself in, and this is no different. By focusing on the little things and working on my weaknesses, I hope to distinguish myself among the best.
CP: Coach Webster – describe Dylan and Nate. What special qualities did they bring?
Dave Webster: I will use both Dylan and Nate as examples for years to come. You reap what you sow. These two young men prepared on a different level. They both have amazing work ethic and determination. They were committed to the process of getting better and made steady progress each season! They truly enjoyed the work and embraced the challenge of realizing their potential. Dylan and Nate grew into dominant players and would not be denied.
CP: Dylan and Nate - what did you learn from Coach Webster, and how is your Dickinson experience helping you succeed?
DM: Coach Webster taught me so much over my four years at Dickinson. His approach to the sport and the preparation that goes into it all is inspiring. Dickinson is a special place because of him. I think Coach Webster has done and will continue to do an amazing job with the Dickinson program. I've learned so much from not only him, but Coach (Pete) Donley and Coach (Tyler) White '15, from both his playing and coaching days. They certainly prepared me well for the next level, without them or me even knowing it. Dickinson is a special program and I am proud to have grown and learned so much from them.
NU: I owe everything to Coach Webster. He saw something in me long before I did, and he gave me a chance when so many coaches looked the other way. When I was getting recruited he told me he would let me loose and allow me to make mistakes, knowing it would pay off in the end.
I made plenty of mistakes. All sophomore year, I was running around messing up slides, missing checks, and putting our team in tough spots. He let me play, and encouraged it, knowing it would help me grow into the best version of myself. Without him and without his trust, I never would have developed the confidence and experience to be where I am today.
CP: Describe each other as players and teammates. What's it like to suit up together in the pros?
DM: It's an exciting experience sharing the field with Nate. He's a great kid and even better player. I couldn't be prouder of him.
NU: Dylan is such a beast. Our whole team would just watch him take an absolute beating on his way to the net just to give our team a shot for another goal. He would put his body on the line for the team, and I learned so much from watching his unselfish physical style. When someone that special comes along, you never get to play with them enough. You always feel cheated when they graduate, because the team is so different when they are gone. To be able to play with him again, it's like a bonus round. It's almost too good to be true.
CP: Coach Webster - what's it like for you to have these two play together on the pro stage? What statement does it make for your Dickinson program, the Centennial Conference, and Division 3 lacrosse?
DW: When I share about Nate and Dylan with recruits, it's less about MLL and more about the young men they are, who have so much drive and determination. They made themselves into the best players they could be and now have a shot at the professional level because of it!