Here is a suggestion for those members of Terrapin nation still basking in the afterglow of Maryland's first NCAA soccer championship in 37 years. Don't stop smiling yet.
The Missouri Athletic Club will announce its Hermann Trophy winner Friday Jan. 6 in St. Louis (announcement will be made live on ESPNews, 7 p.m. ET), and when it does, Jason Garey should become the first Maryland player ever to win college soccer's highest individual award.
But if there is a lack of suspense in this year's announcement, it only serves to underscore the dominance Garey exhibited on the field, both this season and throughout his career.
Garey, who already took home Soccer America's player of the year award, deserves the MAC's Hermann Trophy on almost every level imaginable. The award exists to honor the best player in each particular season. All Garey did this season was lead his Terps to a national title, top the nation in goals with 22 and points with 51 and finish first in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- the nation's toughest -- with .96 goals per game. His team went 13-1-1 when he scored, and he completed the 2005 campaign by starting his 62nd consecutive game -- in the national final no less -- completing a streak he began back in 2003.
In doing so, the Gonzales, Louisiana, native overcame injuries (including a dislocated shoulder in November and a hip flexor strain during the NCAA tournament that threatened his participation in the College Cup) and endured Hurricane Katrina, which hit land about 60 miles from his parents' house and forced some of his family to evacuate their homes.
From a career perspective, no graduating senior had a more impressive run than Garey. He rewrote the Maryland record books, leading the team in scoring in three of his four years and setting Terrapin marks for goals (60) and points (140).
Garey's career coincided with the most successful period in Maryland soccer history. During his time in Sasho Cirovski's program, Maryland reached the College Cup every season. The Terps won more games (76) than any team in Division I - culminating, of course, with the national title. And Garey, who was recruited to fill the rather large boots of several other great strikers recently at College Park, notably Abe Thompson and Major League Soccer MVP Taylor Twellman, almost managed to make Terrapins fans forget them.
While accomplishing all that, Garey, a finance major, still managed to take enough classes to graduate in 3½ years, meaning he will have wrapped up degree requirements long before he takes the field for an MLS team as one of the top picks in the 2006 draft.
No wonder Cirovski could not say enough good things about Garey following Maryland's title run.
"One of the great joys in coaching is having the opportunity to coach people like Jason Garey," Cirovski said at the time. "He is a coach's dream and a joy to coach, and he represents the values that we set out through our whole team. He's a special kid."
It remains to be seen whether or not Garey goes on to eclipse Twellman's accomplishments in MLS and makes the U.S. national team following this summer's World Cup (although several current Maryland players would be good bets to earn caps before South Africa 2010). But Garey should at least leave Maryland knowing he accomplished all there was to accomplish in college soccer.
By giving this award to Garey, college soccer as a whole wins. Garey did not have to come back and play his final season in college. Like USC quarterback Matt Leinart, Garey was good enough to have generated pro offers before his senior year, and he gave serious thought to turning pro before ultimately, on Cirovski's recommendation, deciding to come back. It is doubtful that either Garey or Leinart, in light of how their senior years turned out, would have traded their championship rings and school and NCAA achievements for an extra year of making money in what likely will be long professional careers.
Championships (from the NCAA level and up) are rare achievements that many great players spend their lives trying without success to achieve. Hermann Trophies do not carry as much significance, but they are special awards that link one's name to some of the greatest players produced in this country, including John Harkes, Claudio Reyna, Alexi Lalas and Brad Friedel. As such, Garey's decision to go for that NCAA championship ring makes him a symbol to other talented players, representing the positives of staying in school when you have the opportunity to do something special there. If he wins the Hermann Trophy, that decision will be highlighted even more. Garey said after Maryland won the NCAA tournament that he would not have traded the feeling generated by Maryland's victory for anything else, even to play for world-renowned Manchester United.
Brian Plotkin, who owns two championship rings himself, and Jeff Rowland, who did as much as any player to put New Mexico on the college soccer map, had great seasons. Both have earned a shot in the pros and hopefully will go on to success in MLS. But there is no question: 2005 was Jason Garey's year, and the MAC's Hermann Trophy belongs on his mantle.
Mike Hanzel covers men's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org