Growing up, Jack Maher admits he probably talked too much.
His parents would get mad at him for yelling too much and he would lose his voice all the time.
From time to time, Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley will get on the sophomore defender for talking too much to the midfielders and forwards during games. Yeagley wants him to worry more about the backline and the four guys around him.
But as the lone returning starter for IU this season and one of the three team captains, talking is something the sophomore defender will need to do even more of this year.
“Yeah, that’s something I’ve had to work on,” Maher said. “I direct too much up the field and that’s something where I need to be more internal. That’ll go a long way in being more successful as a team.”
After just one season in Bloomington, Maher has gone from a soft-spoken, skinny center-back to one of the top players in collegiate soccer. He was thrust into the Starting XI at the beginning of last season and has only continued to grow.
But this year’s Maher is much different than the one that started all 24 games a year ago and stifled opposition to the tune of 15 shutouts.
“I think more of last year, but better,” Yeagley said. “I think at the end of last season, he was a much more confident and assertive Jack. With all those qualities, it took him a while to feel like that was his role. He’s a smart, very intelligent kid, that didn’t want to come in day one with the Captain America badge. His leadership has allowed us to be at the point we are right now.”
Maher has spent countless hours breaking down film with Yeagley. It’s one of his favorite things to do. He’ll break down tendencies and pick out a striker’s every move. Before the 2019 season opener against Pittsburgh, Maher and Yeagley took a look at the film on Pitt’s all-American striker Edward Kizza.
Kizza scored his two goals in the match, but Maher helped spark halftime adjustments that rendered Kizza nearly useless in the second half. IU came back to win that game 3-2 in double overtime.
“It’s just something we’re here to do,” Maher said. “There’s no extra pressure. All the pressure put on is internal. We expect to win. We expect to get shutouts and quite frankly we’re upset we didn’t get two shutouts. That’s on me and the backline. It’s a staple of Indiana soccer and looking forward it’s something we’ll really hone in on.
Maher feels much more comfortable in year two. In his collegiate debut last year, Maher admits he was nervous as 3,000-plus Wake Forest fans watched his every move.
This time around it was business as usual.
He knows the expectations that come with wearing the captain’s arm band at Indiana. Maher talked endlessly with captains from last year about taking on this new role.
The pressure, the nerves, that doesn’t bother him anymore. When he’s on the pitch he’s only worried about one thing; making everyone else better.
“It’s incredible to see the change in the coaching staff in the comfort level they have with me,” Maher said. “Day one to now. Last season, being the only freshman to come on board, it was totally different. These guys that we have are next-level players. Having the confidence in each other, will go a long way.”
"Definitely don't wanna see Jack be in front of me on the scoring stats for too long."
Jack Maher scored his first career goal from his center back position. Right back Simon Waever is ready for a defender-goal-scoring competition to ensue. pic.twitter.com/RVorXfAhq8
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 4, 2019
Expectations are always high at IU. The Hoosiers are the preseason favorite to win the conference and after the opening weekend sit at 2-0 and No. 2 in the coaches poll.
To the Hoosiers, it’s all noise.
“Nothing changes. The expectation is that we will win it. It’s the same as if we’re ranked first or last,” Maher said. “It will not change the attitude we have coming into the first game. What we do this year is a direct reflection of how well we’re taught last season by those leaders.”
On Labor Day, as IU prepared to take on UCLA in a delayed start to the final game of the IU/Adidas Credit Union Classic, 15-20 members of Maher’s family filed into Bill Armstrong Stadium; the same family that used to get mad at him for yelling too much.
It was the first time his extended family has been able to watch him in a game at IU. He gave them something to remember. After over 200 minutes of soccer in one weekend, Maher tapped in a goal off assists from redshirt junior Spencer Glass and redshirt freshman Daniel Munie to give IU a 2-1 win in double overtime.
It’s almost time for #iums to take the field against Denver in South Bend, Indiana. Here is another look at Jack Maher’s game winner against UCLA, the last time the Hoosiers took the pitch.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 6, 2019
It was Maher’s first career goal.
The guy who never wants the attention played the role of hero to cap off the opening weekend.
As he embraced his parents after escaping the mob of IU players, he hugged them and began to speak, his voice already giving way after a weekend of yelling out directions.
“We did it,” he said.
That “we before me” mantra never wavers from Maher. Anything he does, he credits back to the team.
He doesn’t mind that though. He’s at IU to win a national championship. And the soft-spoken, skinny center-back will have a huge role in seeing that through, even if he has to lose his voice along the way.