Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
In the half a decade that Jason Herrick spent in College Park, Md., he experienced the ups of winning a national championship and the downs of a long-term injury. The one thing that never wavered in that time was his work rate or professional mindset.
"He's a man," Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said. "He's a very strong-willed, mature, soccer-smart and soccer-savvy guy. He's the kind of player that brings his lunch pail to work every day. In five years I don't think I had to yell at him once to work harder or discipline him for something off the field. He's a pro the way he goes about everything."
Herrick entered the Maryland program as a potential heir apparent to the high-scoring role vacated by 2005 Hermann Trophy winner Jason Garey. After a solid freshman season in which he started 17 games and scored five goals, Herrick was on the wrong end of a harsh challenge from behind during a summer game and tore his meniscus.
The injury caused him to sit out the 2007 season, which happened to be Maryland's worst year in terms of wins and losses in his tenure at the school.
"I was just really anxious to get back on the field," Herrick said. "To see all my teammates out there working hard every day, I couldn't do much."
After rehabilitating and building back his strength, Herrick returned to the field in 2008 and played a part in helping the Terrapins to the NCAA title.
"The one year when I came back, I came back right off the injury so that year was kind of tough, but I played through," Herrick said. "The last two years I kept growing on with my strength and agility."
Part of the proof is in the numbers. He set season-highs in goals in each of his final two collegiate years, culminating his Maryland career with an 11-goal campaign alongside striker partner Casey Townsend in 2010.
Fully fit, the 5-foot-11 Chicago-area native is set to bring his workman mentality and finishing ability to Major League Soccer, where Cirovski think's he'll be a legitimate asset to whichever team selects him. The latest SBI Big Board lists Herrick as the sixth-best forward and No. 17 overall prospect in the draft.
"He reminds me a bit of a downsized version of Brian McBride," Cirovski said. "He's very good in the air for a smaller guy, very courageous. He's extremely competitive, the kind of player that players like playing with. He's so honest in the way he approaches his game."
That should work to Herrick's advantage as he prepares for this weekend's MLS Combine. The scouts, coaches and spectators in Florida should notice his hustle and eagerness to involve himself as well as his ability to hold up the ball, make clever runs while not in possession and, most importantly, finish.
"I'm a two-way player, I'm not just going to stand up there and wait for the ball," Herrick said. "I always have that work ethic on both sides of the ball."
While Herrick has no problem doing the dirty work and putting in an honest 90 minutes, his game isn't lacking flair or polish.
Those in search of evidence need to look no further than Maryland's NCAA quarterfinal match against Michigan, when Herrick took a pass from Matt Kassel down the seam, dribbled straight through the Wolverines' defense and uncorked a blast from about 18 yards to tie the score toward the end of the second half.
"I'm a white-collar player with a blue-collar mentality," Herrick said.
In the physical world of MLS, that should work just fine.