Mark Millon is a pretty incredible lacrosse role model to have. After all, he’s one of the greatest to ever play the game. And there’s no doubt that Mark’s children – McCabe, 15 and Brendan, 12 – look up to their father. But right now their favorite lacrosse star is about a three hour drive north of the Millon home in Reisterstown, Md..
Grant Ament – the Penn State standout, Tewaaraton finalist and one of the best players in college lacrosse – has become a de facto extension of the Millon family, developing a friendship with Mark and a brotherly bond with McCabe and Brendan.
It started when Ament was in middle school and attended Mark’s Pennsylvania camp not far from Ament’s home in Doylestown, Pa.. A teammate went to the camp the year before and raved about it so much Ament just had to go. For Mark, he saw something special in Ament from the start.
[lpg_image align=”right” caption=”Grant Ament with Mark Millon and kids McCabe and Brendan in 2010.”][/lpg_image]
“When you’re running camps all summer and you have different levels of talent, most of the players at camp are really beginners,” said Mark. “We could see right away that this kid … I mean, he just looked the part, from day one. All summer, we’re seeing pretty inexperienced players. Then all of a sudden this kid comes in and he had just such a great attitude … so me and the rest of the staff we kind of immediately taken by him, you know, because he was so willing to want to learn, picking our brains, and then he looked the part.“
Ament immediately took to Mark, too. One of this fondest memories of camp is sitting and watching Mark shoot in a shooting demo. It left such a mark on Ament that even today, now as a coach at Mark’s camp, Ament always encourages Mark to do the demo. Ament came back to camp a second year and it was then that Mark developed more of a relationship with Ament and his parents.
For Ament, the bond really solidified outside of camp, when he was in eighth grade. He was struggling in school and with being one of the smallest guys on the field. So his dad called Mark and Ament traveled to Baltimore for a private lesson. It included training at Calvert Hall High School, workouts with renown lacrosse strength and conditioning coach Jay Dyer and lunch and quality time with Mark. It was in the car on the way to lunch when Mark gave Ament advice that made a lasting impact.
“He mentioned Mike Powell and himself, two of the greatest to ever pick up sticks, and how they were undersized and not necessarily the most physically gifted guys,” said Ament. “But they beat everybody with speed and with the tenacity that they played with. He told me back then to just remember those two names if I’m ever feeling down about myself about what I could do. Because those two did it at the absolute top of the game while being 5’7” and 5’8”.”
Ever since then, Ament says, Mark has been a constant supporter of his. So much so that when Ament was looking to go to a private high school, Mark put in a call to Haverford Coach John Nostrant and put in a good word.
Ament’s confidence grew. He kept returning to camp and eventually started attending Mark’s Project 9 events. As Ament matured, his role at Mark’s camps shifted from camper to coach. While working the camps, Ament met McCabe and Brendan. McCabe was a camper, but Brendan was still too young to get in on the lacrosse action. Nevertheless, Ament took him under his wing. Brendan, who Ament affectionally calls “B-Man” or “B”, would follow Ament around. In turn, Ament looked after “B”, took him around camp in golf carts and generally took on a big brother role.
“Grant immediately took a huge caring, mentoring role to these guys,” Mark said.
“He’s super nice and he wants to make us better when he’s a coach,” said Brendan. “He just really, really likes us and cares about us.”
About five years ago Ament came down to Maryland and stayed with the Millons. He spent quality time with the family, went boating and played some lax in the backyard. Hanging out in the Millon living room one day, Ament (who is an expert stick stringer and used to string sticks for Mark towards the end of his pro career), McCabe and Brendan pulled out some old Warrior hard mesh. Ament worked with the kids on deconstructing the mesh and pulling it apart, teaching them how to get through all the knots. Eventually, with Ament’s help, McCabe successfully strung a stick for the first time. To this day, McCabe remembers the pride of taking the stick he strung and playing wall ball with it.
At that point Ament was still in high school. As Ament’s career grew, not only was he a big brother to McCabe and Brendan, but he also became their lacrosse role model.
“Before he was a coach and an older brother,” said McCabe. “And I got really interested in his playing after watching Project Nine a couple years ago. Brendan and I were out there watching him play and I was really, really impressed. And I remember we both went home and watched some of his old highlights. Then [we] got super excited for him to go to Penn State. We went [up] for a couple of games, and I’ve been trying to model my game after his.”
On any given Saturday in the spring, you’ll likely find McCabe and Brendan in their Penn State jerseys ready to root on Ament and the Nitanny Lions. But it works both ways. Last summer Ament was able to watch McCabe on TV in the 2022 NLF National Championship. Ament, McCabe and Brendan text and write each other all the time. Sometimes it is lacrosse-related, like the other week when McCabe texted Ament for advice on how to better see the field and pass, and sometimes it’s a birthday wish or a text to just catch up. Ament regularly talks and texts with Mark, too.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen any of those Matt Gibson videos where he could catch the ball behind his back when he’s hitting the wall,” said Ament. “But I could do that. And Brendan was just getting so frustrated because he couldn’t do it. And he finally got it and Mark sent me a text message video of him doing it. And he was smiling ear to ear when he finally got it.”
It’s unlikely this relationship would happen in many other sports. It’s hard to imagine that a middle schooler attending Joe Montana’s football camp would end up becoming a big brother and mentor to the hall-of-famer’s kids. But the close knit nature of lacrosse means that stars of the sport are much closer to the young athletes playing it.
“I think lacrosse, because it’s such a small community, can bring so many people together,” said Ament. “I never thought I would be friends with one of the best players to step on the field when I was younger. Now I can consider him one of my close friends. Every time I see him it’s a hug goodbye and I tell him I love him. I’m obviously incredibly grateful for him, but more incredibly grateful that the sport of lacrosse can bring so many people together and so many relationships can be created through it.”