Chad Toliver's story of turning down Division I football for his love of lacrosse
Atlanta isn’t your typical lacrosse hotbed. In a state primarily known for putting football players into the SEC and ACC, head coach of the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team Brian Brecht managed to pluck senior midfielder Chad Toliver out of Milton High School in Georgia.
But not only did Brecht need to recruit him to Piscataway, he needed to recruit him to the game of lacrosse as well.
Toliver was a star high school football player, known for his electrifying speed and registering a 4.43 40-yard dash.
Listed as a cornerback recruit, Toliver had offers from schools like Navy, Toledo and even Wake Forest in the ACC.
He had always played football, but needed to stay in shape during the offseason and credits his brother Cole for getting him into the sport he now loves.
“My brother Cole made me pick up my first stick when I was in eighth grade," Toliver said. "When football season was done I just didn’t want to stay home so I picked up a lacrosse stick and I just got the hang of it."
When Toliver was in high school, lacrosse was a sport where most kids would commit to colleges by their sophomore year. But he said that he only started taking the sport really seriously his junior year.
Toliver said playing at camps and traveling to play is what helped him realize that lacrosse was the sport he wanted to continue with at the next level and that it just felt natural to him.
So despite the multitude of Division I football looks, it was Big Ten lacrosse that he opted for, choosing to sign with the Scarlet Knights, where he would become a four-year starter for Brecht.
“I talked to a lot of people I had in my corner, very good people, and they kind of narrowed it down and just told me 'go with what you want to do,'" Toliver said of his decision to play lacrosse in college. "When coach Brecht came in, I knew the time was right for lacrosse at that time. I knew I wanted to play for him.”
In his first three years on the Banks, Toliver made his impact as a traditional attacking midfielder, scoring 10 goals his freshman year, 7 as a sophomore and 9 as a junior. But this season, he has transitioned into a defensive role, often viewed as a favorable matchup in the strong Rutgers defense and drawing the toughest assignments.
"It’s difficult. Knowing that you’re a short stick in Division I, most teams look to open up and start their offense by dodging you and you’re considered the weak link," he said. "... It’s been a challenge, but it’s definitely been fun.”
And as his Knights career comes to an end, Toliver admitted that the time has flown by, and he remembers coming to campus as a true freshman and being told that it goes by quickly.
He has been part of some very strong teams at Rutgers, but knows that this group of 14 seniors needs to leave its mark in a special way when they are no longer Knights.
“It’s scary knowing that you’re going into your last couple of guaranteed games," Toliver said. "There’s definitely a sense of urgency knowing that we have to put our stamp on something and leave something here on the Banks when we’re gone."