May 20, 2016

Matt Landis: Things I Know
This is an exclusive interview with Notre Dame’s men’s lacrosse captain and All-America defenseman on the eve of the Irish NCAA quarterfinal matchup with North Carolina. A senior from Pelham, New York, Landis is a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year and in 2015 was the top defensive player in the nation according to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. He is one of the five finalists for the 2016 Tewaaraton Award presented to the top player in the country. Landis graduated earlier this month with a degree in finance from the Mendoza College of Business. He received an honorary postgraduate scholarship earlier this year from the ACC.

I didn’t start playing lacrosse until I was in eighth grade. I played football, hockey and baseball-but baseball just seemed really boring so I switched to lacrosse. None of my friends played lacrosse, but there was another group that did play. A couple of kids I was close to started playing and we really fell in love with the sport. We played at our old elementary school and used garbage cans as nets. We threw the ball around all that summer and through the fall and then the next spring (as a freshman in high school) I really wanted to play.

I wanted to play middie (midfielder), I wanted to score some goals. But my high school coach thought my skills translated better on defense because I was a little more physically developed and taller than a lot of the other guys. There was kind of a shortage of guys on defense on our team so I just picked up a pole. It went on from there.

My high school coach played attack at Albany, so he mentored me from an offensive perspective. The summer going into my junior year I played in the Empire State Games and my coach was Tim Schurr. He was one of the best defensemen ever-he played for Team USA. He spent a lot of time showing me everything about footwork and positioning. He really helped me out a lot. (Notre Dame assistant) Coach (Gerry) Byrne saw me play and that was fortunate. It turned out to be a really great story, and I’m happy I’m here.

Football was an option at one point for me-I was looking at the Ivy League. I was a safety. But lacrosse became a reality that summer. I was getting recruiting letters and coaches were coming up to me. It was a fun, unique period of time. I’m happy I talked to Notre Dame.

I had to get myself physically ready to play at the college level and I did that in the summer before coming to Notre Dame. I was in the best shape of my life my freshman year. I really worked hard, especially strength-wise. The next part was learning all the defense, the defensive schemes, our language, the roles and the communication. Then it was about buying into the system and developing the trust and the accountability that is unique to our defense.

We start every week by getting the scout (scouting report) and we see their action on paper. Then we watch their plays and positioning on film. I’ll usually watch one or two games on my own of the team we play that week. The coaches put up tape of individual shooters and dodgers and I’ll watch that. I’ll watch a couple of quarters a night of their previous games. By the time the game comes around I’m pretty familiar with everyone on their team.

The way our defense works, anybody can guard anybody. It really helps me have confidence when I go out there maybe to guard the other team’s best player when I know the other five guys behind me-or six guys including (goaltender) Shane Doss-are all prepared if I make a mistake or they have to slide. I know I have the support of those guys behind me-it’s never just a one-on-one matchup.

Playing against Albany last year and Lyle Thompson was a great experience. I was really prepared to play against him because I was guarding Kyle Trolley and Kyle Runyon and Logan Connelly every day in practice. Those guys have unique skill sets, so you take the combination of those guys and you get something similar to Lyle Thompson, so it gave me a great advantage going into that game.

It’s been an unbelievable ride here at Notre Dame. Hopefully it’s got 10 days left in it. We’re excited to keep playing.

When I came here (to Notre Dame) on my first visit when I was a junior (in high school), I told Coach (Corrigan) I was going to be an All-American. I’m not sure what he thought about that. That was my individual goal, but our collective goal was to win a national championship. We’ve got one more thing to do.

I’m going to be working full-time at Jefferies Investment Banking in New York-I interned there last summer. And I’m going to keep playing lacrosse as long as I can (he was the number-three overall selection by the Florida Launch in the 2016 Major League Lacrosse Draft).

–by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director

Notre Dame assistant lacrosse coach Gerry Byrne on Landis:

–“It’s interesting because Matt’s dad was born in Elkhart (Indiana), but he moved when he was very young and had never been here (Notre Dame) until Matt came to Notre Dame.”

–“The Empire State Games were being played one summer at Canisius up in Buffalo. Kind of at the last minute (Irish head coach) Kevin (Corrigan) wanted me to go, but most of the guys playing there were already committed. I ended up going and there were a handful of coaches. I see Tim Schurr, who I had been good friends with for a long time. He was a volunteer coach for the Hudson Valley team. I run into Tim at the concession stand and he tells me two things. He says, ‘Hey, watch Eddie and Kevin (Tim’s sons) and let me know what you think. I’d love your insight.’ Then he goes, ‘We just added a guy as an alternate because someone cancelled and we needed another guy. So watch this guy.’ He doesn’t tell me the guy’s name or number. I had no idea who he was, but after watching him for a half it was just evident that he (Landis) could play. He was crazy athletic. Ray Charles could have seen how good he was-it was that obvious. When I came back from the trip, there was a package of DVDs that Matt had sent to us. Within a day we had Matt and his dad on the phone and set up a visit. It happened quickly.”

–“He (Landis) has real competitive heat. He just competes and he’s driven. He could cover anybody. Lots of times you see really athletic guys take some shortcuts. Matt just doesn’t take shortcuts. He had a tenacity that was clear as day from the first moment I saw him play. In a good way he had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, maybe because Pelham hadn’t produced a lot of college lacrosse players. That fueled him. I’d see the fundamental things he did when he defended someone, and I thought, ‘Man, that’s how you want it to look’.”

–“He’s smart, he’s got a great IQ and he’s a ridiculous athlete. He’d do a great number in the pro shuttle. He has a macro view of the field which you need to be a good off-ball defenseman. He works at his game-he doesn’t just live off his athleticism. He’s got tremendous pride and an attention to detail. He’s crazy confident and really bright, but he also has a humility about him. We’ve got a veteran group on defense, and they want to know everything they can about everybody we play. Matt is as good an off-ball defenseman as he is when he’s playing on-ball, and that’s rare.”

–“The next summer (prior to Landis’ senior year in high school) I saw him at a tryout for a Long Island team. He was wearing a purple-and-black reversible that said Pelican Lacrosse. All these coaches are looking at him and saying, ‘Who’s the Pelican?’ because he’s everywhere, guarding everybody, recovering, checking, sliding. And I’m smiling because he’s already committed to Notre Dame.”