As an All-State player in Minnesota and an All-Region selection, Mallace was one of the more decorated recruits in the Midwest when he started looking for schools, and had offers from programs including Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
But Calum’s brother, Craig, had played for Bennett and his associate head coach Stan Anderson at Milwaukee. So Calum and the family decided to remain loyal to the coaches who had helped one son already — a gutsy move, seeing as how Marquette had only won a single game the season before his freshman year.
Bennett said when Mallace chose Marquette, he wasn’t just choosing a school. Mallace was committing to more than that.
“He committed to improving a program and creating a culture,” Bennett said. “When he realized it was even harder than he thought and he’d have to change a lot, he still committed to it.”
The change Bennett spoke of wasn’t just about the program. It was change Calum himself had to make within his own game.
Mallace loves to tackle. Just watch him for 90 minutes, and it’s evident. He’s an aggressive, feisty player.
With that style can come trouble for players, and it came for Mallace. Not always, but when it did, he’d often lose his cool, lowering his level of play or requiring his removal from the field.
Until now. Since the end of the 2010 season, the Scottish-born midfielder made the change, with Bennett’s help. If Marquette was going to win, Mallace would have to be the intelligent, mature leader on the field.
As Bennett said, “It’s difficult for good players to change so they can become very good or even great, but he was willing to do that.”
And the change worked; Mallace’s senior season was his best. His point total wasn’t the highest of his career, but he made everyone around him better, and he was able to transition into his role (his likely role with his new club) as a box-to-box midfielder. He became a true all-around player.
It was a change that paid off in accolades this year as well, both through the Big East and nationally. He was named to the All-Big East team, as well as being named the league’s Midfielder of the Year. College Soccer News recognized his fantastic season by naming him a Second Team All-American.
Last week, Mallace was drafted with the No. 1 pick of the second round (20th overall) in the 2012 MLS Superdraft by the Montreal Impact. Montreal is the newest franchise in the MLS, so it will be a unique period of change for the city as well, along with its new players. With established MLS players like Brian Ching, Donovan Ricketts, and Sanna Nyassi, Mallace will be able to learn quickly, but contribute immediately.
Mallace graduated in December, after three and a half years. He leaves Marquette having changed everything in his path. He helped Marquette transition from a Big East cupcake to the team to beat in the conference’s Blue Division, while also changing the standard of player that the program should expect from now on.
In 2008, Mallace’s freshman year, having a Marquette player drafted into the MLS was unthinkable. Bennett’s concerns were for getting players that could be competitive in the Big East. He could not have grand aspirations like that.
Nobody saw any of the soccer program’s success coming — except maybe Mallace. But after watching him change these four years, it’s no surprise to see Mallace playing in the MLS, and likely thriving as a professional.