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In College Park, Urso is an unforgettable name with an unforgettable legacy.
Urso’s exploits will be honored June 2 when he is formally presented the Tewaaraton Legends award in Washington.
“When you’ve moved on and you’re past all that --- and I’m still involved in the game in a totally different way --- but to be remembered for something you did 40-plus years ago is pretty big,” Urso said.
Urso scattered his name across Maryland’s record book during his career, helping the Terrapins claim national titles in both 1973 and 1975. His No. 21 jersey remains unissued, a de facto retirement bestowed upon no other Terrapin.
And while nearly four decades have passed since he last donned a Maryland uniform, the stories of his skills and overall excellence linger.
“Just getting to know him, he’s wearing glasses and he’s a very mild-mannered guy, but when you talk to the alums and people who played against Frank Urso, they describe him almost like he was Superman,” current Maryland coach John Tillman said. “He was a great athlete, a throwback middie who could play offense, play defense, play in the middle of the field. The way people talk about Frank, you would think he’s 10 feet tall because so many people have nice things to say.”
"When you talk to the alums and people who played against Frank Urso, they describe him almost like he was Superman."
- John Tillman, Maryland Head Coach
Jake Reed, a standout Maryland goalie from 1974 to 1977, recalled the mix of strength and speed Urso so adeptly maximized to pile up 127 goals and 208 points --- both of which remain fourth on the Terps’ career lists.
But another trait stood out even more.
“He was unbelievably strong and I think more than anything else he was unbelievably competitive,” Reed said. “He wanted to win no matter what he did, whether it was one the field or playing foosball after practice with the guys.”
Urso joined a program already oozing with talent as a freshman and immediately helped put Maryland over the top. The Terps went 10-0 in 1973, the program’s only undefeated mark in the last 60 seasons.
“I would say from my freshman year until today, I don’t know of a better team,” Urso said. “I would put that team up against any team I’ve seen in the last 50 years. You need a lot of people who knew how to move off the ball and finish and we had that. For me, a lot of my success was not just the individual skills I was blessed with. A lot of it was because I was playing at Maryland and playing with a group of very talented lacrosse players.”
Statistically, Urso’s best season came in 1974, when he had 40 goals and 22 assists in just a 10-game season. He would add a 53-point season the following year, and had at least 45 points in
each of his four years.
More significantly, Maryland went 36-5 and reached the national title game in each of his four seasons.
“The last two times Maryland held the trophy, he was the main factor,” said former Maryland coach Dick Edell, who as the coach at the University of Baltimore faced Urso in 1973. “He was not the tallest, but he was a solid athlete with tremendous skills. He would rank as one of the best midfielders ever to play the game, without a doubt.”
Urso remains deeply connected to the game. He is the head coach at Garnet Valley High School in the Philadelphia suburbs, and one of his former players (defenseman Ryan Lehman) is a senior on this spring’s Maryland team.
All these years later, his time at Maryland --- a place he so deeply impacted --- remains a major part of his life.
“The great friendships you have, the team camaraderie you have, you make life-long relationships with some of the guys,” Urso said. “It was a blast. I had a great time. I love the game and I’m still coaching now. You have the ability to go do something you loved doing for four years. You don’t appreciate it until you look back later in life. It was a big part of my life. I think the sport’s done a lot for me.”
The sport clearly believes the reverse is true as well. The Tewaaraton Legends program identifies players who would have warranted national player of the year honors before the Tewaaraton Award was established in 2001.
There’s little question Urso would have done so at least once in his dominant career.
“I think he changed the face of lacrosse,” Reed said. “Everybody growing up in that era, when they saw No. 21 taking the field, they thought ‘That’s the best guy who’s ever played the game.’”
Frank Urso: Unforgettable Legend is a special presentation of umterps.com.
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