How Salisbury Faceoff Ace Brett Malamphy Overcame Narcolepsy


Salisbury's Brett Malamphy, a first-team USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American faceoff specialist, suffers from narcolepsy. The chronic sleep disorder forced the former UMBC commit to take a year off of college lacrosse.

Led by players like Cross Ferrara, Jarrett Bromwell, Griffin Moroney and others, it’s no secret that Salisbury has one of the most prolific offenses in lacrosse. The Sea Gulls (17-1) average 20.9 goals per game, third-best in the nation, heading into Sunday's NCAA Division III men’s championship game (4 p.m. ET, against undefeated RIT (13-0) in East Hartford, Conn.

But the irony is that the player who may be most responsible for that scoring is not even on the field when most of the shots find the back of the net.

Meet senior Brett Malamphy, USA Lacrosse Magazine’s first-team All-American faceoff specialist for the Sea Gulls. Malamphy is the classic FOGO, repeatedly winning possession for his team and then scurrying off the field as quickly as he can.

“He gets our guys the ball, and that’s a pretty good thing with the closers that we have,” said Hall of Fame head coach Jim Berkman, seeking his 13th NCAA title this weekend. “Our production on offense is a direct result of what he does.”

Malamphy’s 75.7 winning percentage (221-for-292) this season currently ranks fifth in the nation among Division III faceoff specialists. He has been even sharper in the postseason, with a nearly 79-percent average in four NCAA tournament games this month.

Faceoff success is nothing new for Malamphy, who has been an impact player since joining the Sea Gulls in 2018. That first season, while splitting duty at the X with TJ Logue, he won 137 of 215 faceoffs (63.7 percent) and helped Salisbury finish as the national runner-up.

The next year, as the primary FOGO, he won 361 of 495 faceoffs (72.9 percent) and was named the Capital Athletic Conference’s player of the year, a rare recognition for a specialist. He was also selected as a first-team All-American.

“He’s been unbelievable and gotten better every year,” Berkman said.

As impressive as Malamphy’s on-field success has been, it’s even more extraordinary when viewed within the context of his full journey.

During his ninth-grade year in high school, Malamphy, the oldest of four siblings, started randomly getting sleepy much of the time. His metabolism also slowed to a crawl, causing him to gain nearly 30 pounds in just a matter of weeks.

Multiple doctor visits initially failed to diagnose the problem until eventually, further tests identified the issue. Malamphy suffered from narcolepsy.

“The symptoms mimic a lot of other diseases, so sometimes it’s not easy to diagnose,” Malamphy said.

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time and can suffer from serious disruptions in daily routines due to being tired.

About half of people with narcolepsy have trouble sleeping through the night, wake up frequently (fragmented sleep) and have difficulty falling back to sleep. While it’s a relatively rare disease, typically with fewer than 200,000 cases a year in the United States, narcolepsy requires careful management.

A daily nap, along with the right medicines, have been critical in helping Malamphy, 24, move forward. But there was a time when narcolepsy was winning the battle.

A native of Crofton, Md., and a talented player at Arundel High School, Malamphy originally committed to play at Division I UMBC. He joined the Retrievers in 2014, coached at the time by Hall of Famer Don Zimmerman. But within two years, he had to step away due to the impact of the disorder.

“It was very emotional to shut it down, but I couldn’t do it anymore,” Malamphy said. “I couldn’t keep up with the academic demands and the demands of a Division I athletic schedule. I had to take a medical withdrawal.”

After a year away, and knowing that he still wanted to play, Malamphy transferred to Salisbury for a fresh start. He sat out of lacrosse during his first year at the Eastern Shore campus, focusing on the academic workload as an economics major. With help from a trio of doctors, he also got better at managing narcolepsy.

“Right now, I feel the best I’ve ever been,” he said. “But it’s important that I take my medicine each day and get at least a 30-minute nap. Structure is a huge thing.”

His return to the field has been part of that needed structure.

“Lacrosse has been my saving grace,” he said. “Joining the team here was like a breath of fresh air. It felt amazing just being part of the brotherhood right away.”

Malamphy points to his camaraderie with Salisbury’s other faceoff specialists — Eoghan Sweeney, Ham McPartland and Drew Downing — as an example of the bonds he has built.

“We’re the best of friends and we’re always trying to make each other better,” he said. “We always do drill work together, and we emphasize quality over quantity.”

Malamphy also credits a lot of his success to assistant coach Jayme Block, who works daily with the faceoff specialists. As a former Sea Gull FOGO himself, Block well understands the intricacies of the position, both the mental as well as the physical.

“We work a lot on the mental approach to this position,” Block said. “If you lose one, you can’t dwell on it. We talk about games being a marathon.”

Recent NCAA faceoff rule changes have forced Malamphy, like most FOGOs, to make changes. Starting this season, all faceoffs had to be contested from standing-neutral grip approach, eliminating the popular knee-down moto-grip combination. Malamphy’s hard work has helped to keep him among the premiere specialists in the nation. His 142 ground balls lead the team.

“The mechanics with the standing neutral grip are all different now. Brett basically had to relearn the position,” Block said. “But he’s very coachable, and to his credit, he really worked on all the little things that are important. All four of our guys are always helping each other. They see themselves as a unit.”

Having support from many corners has helped Malamphy thrive. Coaches, teammates, doctors, faith and family all play a part in his journey.

“I have a great support system,” he said. “All of this has definitely strengthened my relationship with God. And my parents have been great. My mom basically cries at every game because she’s seen my highest highs and lowest lows.”

It’s very likely she won’t be the only one in tears if her son is hoisting an NCAA championship trophy Sunday afternoon.

“This means everything to me,” Malamphy said. “I’m trying to fulfill my childhood dream.”

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