Chris Passavia used to be a computer geek. His video games were inside, so that is where he wanted to be as a young boy growing up in Stony Brook, N.Y.
"My brother was always nagging at me to go outside and play," he said. "He loved being outside. I just wanted to play video games. He'd be nagging at me, and all I was interested in was getting to the fourth level of [Super] Mario Brothers."
Video games were not Passavia's only interest. He wrote poetry, wrote and directed a one-act play and played Conrad Birdie in the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" in high school.
He also began playing lacrosse. And by his senior year at Ward Melville High on Long Island in 2000, Passavia was a two-time all-American defenseman. Passavia's combination of talents caught the notice of Princeton, which recruited him.
But his brother, Willy, was a freshman midfielder at Maryland at the time. He was the same brother who used to tease him and throw lacrosse balls and footballs at him when Chris was playing video games. Willy suggested he visit Maryland.
It's the main reason Chris Passavia will be playing for No. 3 Maryland (13-2) instead of No. 6 Princeton (10-3) today when the schools meet in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
"I liked both schools," Passavia said. "But having 'Big Man' [former Maryland coach Dick Edell] here and having my brother here made my decision a lot easier."
Passavia, 22, hasn't lost his interest in things other than sports. He graduated from Maryland's honors program with a psychology degree on Thursday.
"He can pretty much talk about anything," Maryland senior defenseman Lee Zink said. "He talks about scientific stuff, the way things work. Or he'll talk about politics. . . . Basically he's just a very, very motivated guy."
One can tell that by watching the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Passavia play. He is one of the few defensemen in the sport who can run at full speed and still throw almost any check. Zink is less flashy but more steady.
The two have combined to shut down some of the top offensive tandems in the country. They held Georgetown's Neal Goldman and Walid Hajj to one point in a 14-5 win; held Virginia's John Christmas and Matt Ward scoreless in an 11-2 win; and held Duke's Matt Zash and Matt Danowski to two goals in a 17-12 win.
"He attacks people," Ward Melville Coach Joe Cuozzo said of Passavia. "He would start wailing that stick above his head, and he would have attackmen deathly afraid. He doesn't play defensive defense. He plays offensive defense."
That fearlessness was why Passavia was not afraid to act in junior high school, why he wrote and performed in his play, "Well, Here I Am" at Ward Melville.
"Some of his friends were tough critics, and they said his play was really good," Willy Passavia said. "He's the type of guy that you can't give him grief for doing stuff like that. He didn't care what other athletes were doing or what he should be doing. He went out and made it cool for people to do that stuff, and that's really awesome. It takes guts to go out and do that. That's one thing about Chris; he is all about not going down the normal route. He takes his own path."
Passavia's future plans are uncertain. He is going to live in Manhattan for a year and is considering law school, but he also has not ruled out trying to be a writer or actor.
For now, though, his thoughts are on leading Maryland to its first NCAA title since 1975. The Terrapins were denied national titles in championship game losses to Princeton in 1997 and 1998 and in quarterfinal losses in 1992 and 2000.
Last year's title run ended in a 14-4 loss to Virginia in the final four in Baltimore. Cavaliers Coach Dom Starsia said his team had a plan to neutralize Zink and Passavia, but needed some luck to carry it out.
The players those two guarded -- Ward and Joe Yevoli -- combined for seven goals and three assists in that game.
"It sounds stupid, but the past two years Maryland has been a much better team when they're ahead," Starsia said. "We got an early lead. When they're behind, they [Zink and Passavia] have to chase you, and you can do some things around them. Sometimes they can be too aggressive, and you can take advantage of that.
Starsia said it is rare for a team to have such two great defensemen in the same class.
"It doesn't happen very often in recruiting that you get two great players who play the same position," he said. "When it happens, it's a gem."