Daren Mayer knew that he had to make some changes if he wanted to find himself playing college lacrosse.
The Leading Edge 2020 and Hunterdon Central LSM saw others making early commitments, then more flying off the board after the Sept. 1 contact period started for 2020s. He'd had opportunities to play in front of a ton of college coaches before, perks of playing for one of the top clubs in the country in Leading Edge, but Mayer knew he needed to make a jump if he really wanted people to take notice.
So, he went back to... an unlikely source.
"I knew that I had to get faster and stronger and really start laying the body out there and show my presence," Mayer said. "I started going to the gym with my brother, Brian. He's an MMA fighter, so he knows what he's doing. Our dad put us in MMA when we were younger for self defense."
It didn't take long for the added muscle and physicality to have its desired impact. Mayer was noticeably different this fall, setting a physical tone on the back end. He was a new man on the field, and that transformation started turning heads in a hurry.
"After our first two fall tournaments, college coaches were calling me and telling me that they watched me play. That was definitely a boost for me," Mayer said. "I got stronger and more aggressive on the ball. I was more of a presence and I was going after bigger kids, and I was doing well."
Mayer didn't have to wait much longer to get the attention he was looking for. He'd wanted to visit Wagner before the fall, but the schedule never fell the right way. After the Seahawks reached out to him again after his strong fall, Mayer opted to take a look when he was checking out schools. Once he got there, it wasn't long before he knew that Wagner was the spot for him. He chose to become a Seahawk, and he's the 10th Leading Edge 2020 to commit, all to Division I schools.
"Once I started walking around at Wagner and talking to the dean and everything, it was a done deal for me," Mayer said. "They have a great criminal justice program there and I want to do three years as a cop and then become an FBI or SWAT agent. I've always wanted to do something active, plus I love watching Live PD. I had met Coach (Bill) McCutcheon before, and when he went over to Wagner, we just hit it off. My parents also loved the school and it just felt right."
It's an impressive end game for a player who only started playing lacrosse in sixth grade after leaving baseball because, "it was too slow." He joined Leading Edge during his freshman year, and that represented a sizeable jump in competition, both in games and practice. It took Mayer a little bit to adjust, but without that experience, he probably wouldn't be the newest Wagner commit.
"Going from playing with decent kids to kids who are top prospects was definitely a hard change," Mayer said. "I learned a lot from that, even in practice, and it definitely helped me prepare for games."
"Daren was a little raw when he came over to Leading Edge, and it's incredible to see how far he's come in that time," Leading Edge director Chris Roy said. "We were extremely impressed with his play this fall, which is a testament to how hard he worked to put himself in a position to be a Division I LSM. He still has so much upside as a tough, very athletic LSM who can make plays all over the field. We're thrilled that he found the perfect fit for him, and we'll be rooting for him at Wagner."
LEADING EDGE 2020 COLLEGE COMMITMENTS
Jack Aimone, midfield, Hunterdon Central - Rutgers Evan Barr, goalie, Somerville - Duke (Commitment story) Luke Blanc, attack, Seton Hall Prep - UMass (Commitment story) Reid Colwell, defense, Westfield - Villanova (Commitment story) Jack Cooleen, defense, Lawrenceville - Dartmouth (Commitment story) Colin Freer, defense, Westfield - Princeton Connell Kumar, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Virginia (Commitment story) Cole Krauss, LSM/D, Delbarton - Duke (Commitment story) Kyle Stephenson, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Rutgers