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Marcus Holman wants to be remembered for how he treated his teammates, not necessarily his stats.

Weekly Cover: Marcus Holman's Second Mountain

June 5, 2024
Kenny DeJohn

Marcus Holman is mid-workout. The sweat beads down his forehead as he sweeps from behind the crease and stings corners on the indoor turf at Moose Athletic Club in Glen Burnie, Md., while preparing for Premier Lacrosse League training camp. Ping after ping reverberate through the facility, its open ceilings and exposed metal beams providing the acoustics.

Holman undoes his chinstrap, places his Boston Cannons helmet down near his extra sticks and smiles his charismatically crooked smile at the cameras as he removes his gloves.

He barely catches his breath before delivering an STX “weapon of choice” read in one take. Ninety seconds of genuine, expert-level stuff from someone who lives and breathes lacrosse.

Doing anything in one take, scripted or not, isn’t easy. Holman makes it look that way. He’s spent so much time trying to slow himself down, focusing on stoicism and reflection, that sifting through his thoughts to eloquently describe his go-to gear might be the easiest thing he’s done all day.

He’s a wisdom sponge, in the words of best friend Will Manny. Once Holman, 33, graduated from North Carolina in 2013, he realized that learning couldn’t stop.

“If I’m going to learn about life and leadership and sports psychology, I’m going to have to go out and study these things on my own,” he said, rattling off the authors of his favorite books, like Tim Grover, Ryan Holiday, James Kerr and George Mumford. “It’s whatever I can get my hands on in terms of leadership and stoicism.”

One book might have changed it all. David Brooks’ No. 1 New York Times bestseller, “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life,” put it all into perspective.

Over the course of 384 pages, Brooks explains how a person’s first mountain is self-centered. The second mountain — other-centered — is the hardest to climb. But again, not for Holman. Cannons teammate Adam Ghitelman laughs when asked if Holman is good at everything. It seems that way as an outsider. He has that aura. Because he is.

Conquering the second mountain should be arduous. It hasn’t been for Holman.

“You know when you read a book at the right time, and it just really cuts to your core? That was me,” Holman said. “At some point, you realize the second mountain is the most important. That’s about your calling to others, your relationship with people, how you can make them better. It’s freed me up to play loose and enjoy the entire experience.”

At some point, you realize the second mountain is the most important. That’s about your calling to others, your relationship with people, how you can make them better.

Marcus Holman

The mountains have shaped him, both in literature and geography. Coaching at the University of Utah from 2016-21 with his father, Brian, along with Ghitelman and Manny might have been the most transformative period of his life.

From spending more than 100 days in the mountains over his first two years to completing the multi-hour hike to Angels Landing at Zion National Park, Holman was exposed to some of the most breathtaking scenery the world has to offer.

“Those places, you go there, and to some degree, they will change your life spiritually,” Ghitelman said.

Focused intensity is the new phrase Holman is using in his 12th year as a pro. He’s locked in, staying in the moment. Holman has learned that dwelling on anything is a distraction preventing him from bettering himself and, most importantly, his teammates.

“For a while in my lacrosse career, I wouldn’t say I struggled, but I felt like I needed to be perfect,” he said. “If I made one mistake or our team would go down two or three goals, I would get so emotional about it. Through time, which is the greatest teacher, I’ve learned that you have to just go with the flow.”

Flow? He has plenty of that. Competitive drive? Plenty of that, too. He’s the lacrosse player’s lacrosse player, the ideal confluence of skill, work ethic and passion.

There are many layers to Marcus Holman. None more important than the other, all adding up to one of the most respected, but perhaps underappreciated, athletes in the sport.

Marcus Holman.
Marcus Holman at one of his personal training sessions at Moose Athletic Club in Glen Burnie, Md.
Josh Rottman


Seth Tierney was already keenly aware of everything Holman could bring to the U.S. Men’s National Team program.

Then an assistant under John Danowski, Tierney — now the head coach himself — vividly remembers how Holman handled being the final cut from the 2023 team that eventually won a gold medal in San Diego. Holman sought to join the exclusive group of U.S. athletes to be part of three national teams.

Tierney and the rest of the U.S. staff thought it was more important to take a fourth defensive midfielder rather than another offensive threat. They deliberated for hours in Orlando, Fla., before the names of the cut players flashed on a screen.

“It was like he wrote the book on how to handle adversity,” Tierney said. “He just went around and made sure that he connected with everyone that made the team, left a positive thought with them. Zero sour grapes.”

Whereas egos can take over at the highest level of sport, Holman understood the decision entirely.

“I was at peace with it,” he said. “It’s a tough feeling when you don’t hear your name called. There is that gut punch. But then you look at the guys who are on the team, there are younger guys and first-time players, and I did genuinely feel happy for them.”

An ideal teammate even on teams he’s not on, apparently. Holman is the guy every player hopes to play beside one day. He’s a vibes guy, lightening the mood in a kibbutz in Israel when the 2018 men’s team won gold against Canada by blasting music and dancing in the hallway.

He’s also the type of unselfish linemate who wants nothing more than to create the ideal situation on the field. The master of the hockey assist and sealing a slide, Holman is someone people love to play with because of the advantageous opportunities that arise simply from being around him.

“He’s a cultivator of culture just by being himself,” Ghitelman said.

Metaphors tend to fly freely from the mouth of Tierney. They fly faster when talking about Holman. The deep respect he has for the nine-time professional all-star is evident off rip.

“He’s like the air pressure mask in an airplane,” Tierney said. “He puts his on first, then he’s helping other people during high-pressure times. He’s still doing it to this day.”

Greg Gurenlian had always admired Holman from afar. In 2014, when Gurenlian was a veteran already well on his way to becoming one of the top faceoff athletes ever, he was awestruck to be around someone coming off his first all-star nod.

“I was like, ‘God, it’s so cool to be on a team with this guy,” Gurenlian recalled. “All he does is pound corners from 16 yards out and constantly make the right play on the lacrosse field.”

The “right play” for Holman is often shooting the ball. He’s third in professional lacrosse history in goals (320) and seventh in points (459). His wife, Alex Aust Holman, isn’t shy about telling people she’s married to “the best shooter in the world.”

Sure, that’s an admittedly biased opinion. But at the very least, he’s up there. Still, while the goals are appreciated by teammates, it’s everything else he does that stands out. He undoubtedly could have more goals, but it’s the shots he passed on to set someone up for a better look that his teammates remember most.

“Marcus Holman probably is the all-time leader in creating goals — and that’s not something you can calculate,” Ghitelman said.

Marcus Holman, USA.
Marcus Holman celebrates with Joel White and John Galloway a win in the gold-medal game against Canada in 2018.
Adam Scott


Joe Breschi can remember the post-practice pings. They might not have been as strong as they are now, but from 2010-13, Holman would stay late after practice in Chapel Hill to shoot from whichever spot he decided to master that day.

It came from a desire to maximize his ability. And if 10,000 hours makes someone an expert, it’s all that extra time away from prying eyes that put Holman a cut above.

“He’s not the fastest. He’s not the quickest. He’s not all those things,” Breschi said. “But he is, by far, one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around. His work ethic is off the charts.”

Brian Holman first noticed his son’s competitive fire when he was 11 or 12 years old playing in the Towsontowne rec program.

Lacrosse was likely always going to be in Marcus Holman’s life. His father played in four NCAA championship games with Johns Hopkins from 1980-83. Holman was raised in the Baltimore suburbs and attended Gilman School, an all-boys independent school with a storied lacrosse history.

But lacrosse player and lacrosse star are different things. It’s not like he was destined to be great. He worked at it.

“He just had this insatiable desire to compete,” Brian Holman said. “He never stopped.”

He didn’t stop then, and he hasn’t stopped now — so much so that it’s one of the first things anyone mentions when describing Holman’s best traits.

He rode that determination to a three-time All-American career at North Carolina, where his father was an assistant. It was then off to Major League Lacrosse to play for Bear Davis and the Ohio Machine, where the second-round pick blossomed into a championship game MVP in 2017.

“To win a championship, you have to have that guy that has a motor that just never stops — has the charisma, has the competitive edge,” Davis said. “He’s not the 6-4, 215-pound guy, either. You’ve got that bulldog in the corner that, by stature, you look at him and say, ‘I’m not sure that’s the biggest guy, but that’s the biggest heart.’”

The Machine trailed the Denver Outlaws 7-6 at halftime in the 2017 title game. The lead later increased to 10-6. At the intermission, Holman stood up in a locker room featuring lacrosse luminaries like Kyle Harrison and Tom Schreiber to deliver a stirring speech.

Davis remembers it to this day. He also remembers how Holman backed it up by scoring the go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter.

It was hardly a surprise. Holman plays every game like it’s a championship game.

“People are missing the boat on how great of a player and a person Marcus Holman is,” Tierney said. “When he does decide to hang up the cleats and put the stick back on the rack, we are going to miss his energy. I’m not sure I’ve seen a guy with less regret leave a competition. Even when he loses, he leaves it out there.”

Marcus Holman, Ohio Machine.
Marcus Holman was the MVP of the 2017 MLL championship game for the Ohio Machine.
Jerome Miron


Holman can get lost in the “thud” the ball makes against the wall. There’s a rhythmic cadence to his routine. You have to say his name twice, the second time a little louder than the first, to snap him out of the wall-ball-induced trance.

Few can get lost in the minutiae of the game like he does.

“It stems from my love for lacrosse,” he said. “I genuinely love the sport so much. Having a catch, doing transition drills. There’s just something so captivating about the game.”

The field is his happy place. Any field. Turf field, grass field, dirt field. Indoors or outdoors. As long as there’s a goal and a net, he’s home.

“He’s a golden retriever on the field,” Gurenlian said. “His tail is wagging, and he’s happy. He’s a fish in water when he’s on the lacrosse field.”

Holman approaches everything like a glass-half-full optimist with love to give. Aust Holman first met her future husband at the Tewaaraton Award ceremony in 2013. Both were finalists.

She had always known of him through lacrosse circles. Her initial opinion backed up everything she had heard. He was a genuine, nice guy with a beaming smile. But Aust Holman fell in love with Sydney, his sister, and Laurie, his mother, first. She coached Sydney Holman in the Under Armour All-American game and interacted with Laurie Holman when both were the directors of operations at Maryland and North Carolina, respectively.

It wasn’t until several years after college that they reconnected through a mutual friend in San Diego. They sat next to each other at a dinner.

“I just remember thinking that we had never thought of each other that way before,” Aust Holman said. “Timing is everything.”

They started dating in May 2018 and navigated a pandemic and a long-distance relationship that spanned Baltimore to Salt Lake City in part because of Holman’s innate communication and conflict resolution skills.

“He doesn’t text,” Aust Holman said. “He calls. He FaceTimes. He writes letters.”

They got married in December 2021 in Tulum, Mexico, and are enjoying life in Maryland with their two English Cocker Spaniels, Biscuit and Gravy. They’re each other’s biggest fans and best friends. “Forever teammates,” as Holman fittingly calls them.

Like the rest of the world, they’ve taken up pickle ball. Long walks, concerts and travel lead to shared life experiences. They love to have fun and not take life — or themselves — too seriously.

They’re so comfortable in their relationship that Aust Holman spoke pridefully about Holman’s semi-secret side passion as DJ Dip n’ Dunk.

“He used to DJ college parties,” she said. “He’ll DJ my two-mile runs on the treadmill in the morning. That’s a huge tenet of ours, to be able to laugh at ourselves.”

His love of music came from his parents, who always had music on in the house. They’d play “name that song” games on road trips. Brian Holman saw DJ Dip N’ Dunk in action in May at a party at his son’s house.

There were turntables, speakers, headsets … the whole nine yards.

“My wife and I left early before things got out of hand,” Brian Holman said with a hearty laugh.

Marcus Holman and Alex Aust Holman.
Marcus and Alex Aust Holman on the red carpet before the PLL Awards ceremony last year.
Premier Lacrosse League


Holman still thinks he needs to focus on climbing that second mountain. Legacy? He uneasily laughs when he hears the word. The only thing he wants to be remembered for is how he welcomed new teammates and taught them what it means to be a pro.

“Legacy is just about the impact you can leave with other people,” he said. “I hope that people would say they liked playing with me and maybe even that they didn’t like playing against me.”

He gives a similar hesitant laugh when he hears “undervalued.” He pauses, the tires on the highway the only faint sound as he drives to another training session at Moose Athletic Club.

“I don’t think of myself as undervalued,” he finally says. “Maybe to the public I’m not the prettiest player or I don’t have a great bag of skills, but I can complement the guys around me well. That’s where I made my living in the pros.”

Indeed, that’s the consensus from anyone who talks about Holman the teammate. Manny said his friend could join any PLL team and instantly make them better. He did just that when he joined the Cannons in 2023 to play for his father, who had just been named the head coach.

The Holmans turned around a one-win team to go 7-3 and earn a spot in the PLL Championship Series. They beat the Philadelphia Waterdogs in the title game of the February sixes-style event and met for an on-field embrace that captured the moment without words.

As Holman’s career inevitably draws closer to its end — whenever that might be — the happy-go-lucky All-Star and 2023 PLL MVP finalist with a hammer of a shot from deep hasn’t lost the passion.

As long as that doesn’t go away, Holman won’t ever have to leave his happy place.

“Legacy is for other people,” he said. “I just want to continue to try and be the best that I can be. I still enjoy going out with a bag of balls and shooting by myself. I did that this morning on a grass field where the rec teams play in Severna Park. Maybe that passion will last forever.”