Josh Stout's Utah lacrosse teammates are arriving for practice as he stands in the corner of the field, absorbing instructions. Ask anyone how Stout has scored 38 goals this season to rank in the country's top 20, and the explanation is that he's coachable.
Here's more proof on an April afternoon, as Stout keeps asking how he should hold his stick and where he should look as he starts running. Even as teammates tease him from a distance, he's willing to repeat the sequence multiple times.
Sure enough, the photographer gets his shot.
Stout’s emergence has framed Utah’s inaugural NCAA season, ending Saturday afternoon vs. Detroit Mercy at Judge Memorial High School. The Utes (4-10) have lost seven straight games, yet have remained highly competitive in the move from the club level to Division I. The team’s leading scorer is a the youngest of four boys (they have a younger sister) who grew up in Alpine in a lacrosse-oriented, further bonded by their father’s death after a heart attack in 2011 at age 45. Josh was 12.
Utah vs. Detroit Mercy
At Judge Memorial's McCarthey Stadium
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Lacrosse became “the thing that kind of held us together after my dad died,” said Aaron Stout, the oldest son, citing a “shared, common language.”
Randy Stout was a prep star in the lacrosse culture of Maryland and, after attending BYU, coached his oldest sons at Lone Peak High School. Aaron later took over the team and coached his brothers Jake and Josh, now Utah teammates. Along with another current Ute, Aaron Fjeldsted, they led Lone Peak to the state championship game.
The coaches “tried to stay out of the way,” Aaron Stout said modestly, “because they were so much smarter than us about offense.”
Josh Stout learns quickly, that's for sure. Jake remembers an afternoon in the family's backyard, where Josh's brothers taught the 10-year-old player a new move. “And then an hour later in his game, he goes on the field and fakes a shot and scores,” Jake said.
A decade later, Jake his witnessed each of his brother's 38 goals in college lacrosse (while scoring two of his own) and is not stunned by Josh's success. “The kid's a scorer,” he said. “If the kid wants to achieve something, he's going to achieve it. … I don't think he's surprised himself, either.”
Josh Stout is confident, but hardly sounds impressed with himself. Asked what this season has taught him, he said, “You have to be consistent every day. … Obviously, everybody on the team has learned a lot. Next year, we'll definitely have a different edge, and we'll know what to expect.”
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Stout would have played for Westminster College’s Division II team (following the path of another brother, Zach), if not for Utah’s adding the sport. The timing was just right. Utah called him in the summer of 2016, so he enrolled in the school and played two club seasons before joining in the transition to Division I. The NCAA’s five-year eligibility clock makes him a sophomore, with an encouraging future for himself and the program.
Asked to pinpoint a memorable moment in the season, Stout goes right to the start. Utah’s 21-6 loss to Vermont drove home the reality of the competition. “A lot of us were like, ‘This is Division I lacrosse. It’s not a joke,’ ” he said. “Everyone here competes at the highest level.”
Only after some prodding does Stout mention more positive memories, such as a 13-9 win over Mercer the next week. And even then, he says nothing abut having scored seven goals in that game.
He's known for being ambitious, though, with specific goals. Stout intends to pursue a nursing career, initially in an emergency room and then as part of an organ transplant team.
On the field, Stout's goal-scoring production has dropped off lately, as the Utes keep losing, but coach Brian Holman remains encouraged. With the Utes stuck on four wins since March 9, Holman keeps noting how only five of the 15 schools that recently have moved into Division I won four games in their initial seasons.
The trait that Stout once displayed in the backyard in Alpine remains intact. “His willingness to accept coaching and put it into practice is a great message for all kids playing sports,” Holman said, crediting Ute assistants Will Manny and Marcus Holman for working with Stout.
Brian Holman couldn't have known Stout would become such a prolific scorer this soon. Yet that early success boosted the player's confidence, and Holman believes the player who wears No. 1 is inspiring young Utahns. “Part of our dream coming out here was to see a stadium full of kids … and maybe there's one kid, saying, 'That's Josh Stout. I want to be like him,' ” Holman said.
Next spring, the Utes will be playing in a new soccer/lacrosse stadium on the campus, where Stout will try to keep improving. His motivation in lacrosse stems from wanting to be like his brothers and, Aaron Stout suggests, the missed opportunity to have his father coach him. As his brother said, Josh “really wanted to make his dad proud.”
Stout undoubtedly has succeeded in Utah’s debut season, with more to come.