Special to SportsDay
JACKSONVILLE (www.sportsdayjax.com) – Jacksonville Men’s Lacrosse grad student Troy Hettinger has been a jack of all trades for five seasons in the Green and White. And now, the fifth year is getting the opportunity to showcase his talents professionally.
“I think it’s every kid’s dream to play and compete with the best of the best,” said Hettinger on being drafted into the Premier Lacrosse League, (PLL). “Coming out of high school and playing Division I at JU fulfilled that dream. Since being at JU, the possibility of making a professional career out of lacrosse has further fulfilled my aspirations of playing with the best.”
The Chrome Lacrosse Club drafted Hettinger with the 12th overall pick in the Premier Lacrosse League Draft on Tuesday night. The Ellicott City, Maryland native, now the highest selected PLL player in program history, has been asked to play a plethora of roles throughout his career, and it started before his time in Jacksonville.
“Troy was a jack of all trades in recruitment,” said Jacksonville men’s lacrosse head coach John Galloway. “He played longstick at his club team, he played short stick for his high school. He was a good football player, good kicker and he wasn’t being heavily recruited, kind of a diamond in the rough in every way. Not only him but his family are just great people, and we fell in love with them in the process. We knew he would be special, but we didn’t know that he would be arguably the best player who’s come through our program.”
When asked about what goes into being able to mentally and physically prepare yourself for a variety of roles and challenges, Hettinger likes to think it makes him better and meets the challenge head on.
“When the coaches asked me to move around to different positions, I welcomed it with open arms,” said Hettinger. “I knew it was what was best for the team, and I made it my goal to be the best I could be. Having the ability to play multiple positions not only benefited me athletically, but I believe helped the team succeed. If there was ever a need in practice or games, I knew I could fill those roles.”
“Early on in his career we thought he was a good defenseman in his footwork and the fluidity in his hips,” further added Coach Galloway. “We started to see his power and skill on the offensive side, so we put him in that end, and we transitioned him to his sophomore year where he was playing man-up and a little bit out of the box, playing two ways. He was athletic and conditioned enough that he could do both.”
A three-sport letterwinner and four-year starter at the midfield position for his alma mater, Marriotts Ridge High School, Hettinger found success both on the field and in the classroom. He was a key factor in the team’s first state championship and recorded 35 goals and 15 assists in the season. In addition to being a dynamic player, he earned the Scholar-Athlete Award for his school.
When asked about the recruiting process, Hettinger made it sound pretty painless from his end.
“The coaches made the recruiting process seamless; I knew when I first stepped on campus that JU was the place I wanted to be.”
For some, the transition from high school to college can be shell-shocking. However, both teammates and coaching staff alike noticed that Hettinger made the jump seem easy.
“Troy came to JU already extremely mature and ready to rock,” said teammate and fellow fifth-year Jack Heed. “For the past five years, he’s really grown as a leader. He led by example in every way and continued to back up the reason why he is the standard of Jacksonville lacrosse.”
Coach Galloway had a similar takeaway to Troy’s growth and ability to adapt early.
“As a freshman, he was an adult. I think that’s what we took away from him right away, he was a young man who carried himself well above his years. He was a player that was able to do everything on the field from us from a field and athleticism standpoint,” said Galloway. “We put him in the short-stick defensive midfield position, but he showed signs and glimpses of offense early on and you started to see that he would be capable of doing it all for us throughout his career. He really did so in such a unique and humble way.”
As a freshman in 2019, Hettinger recorded 20 ground balls and caused six turnovers. In 2021, Troy scored 14 goals and added an assist as well. In 2022, he nabbed 10 points while causing eight turnovers and scooping 22 groundballs and in his final season, Troy caused 27 turnovers and picked up 46 ground balls en route to being the ASUN’s Defensive Player of the Year.
When asked about when Hettinger first began to embrace a leadership role within the team, both Heed and Galloway agreed, he showed signs of leadership early.
“Again, early on in his career, Troy was looked at as a guy who did it the right way,” said Galloway. “He did it the right way in the classroom, he certainly did it the right way off the field and how he carried himself in the facility. I think you felt like this was a guy you’d be able to rally around. I think early on in his career, ‘when Troy’s class becomes seniors, we’re going to feel really good about the culture of where this team is headed, and we were right.”
“Troy was a guy that you could always count on,” said Heed. “He may not have the loudest of voices, but when he spoke, everyone listened. If you need anything, you go to Troy.”
Now, players and coaches alike have the opportunity to watch their teammate, player and friend play lacrosse at the next level.
“I’ve been pounding on the table to all the PLL teams that Troy’s game translates perfectly to that level because of his size, his ability to play multiple positions, his control on the ball, his skill off the turf, he’s a perfect fit for the PLL,” said Galloway. “He’s kind of a prototypical midfielder short-stick mid/close-D guy, again he’s so valuable in that league because when you can only dress 23 guys, one guy goes down and you’re scratching for somebody else. Troy serves all those roles, and he is well deserving to be a top-10 pick, if he falls anything below that, some team will end up lucky to have him.”
Hettinger believes he’s the one who’s been lucky to have Galloway in his corner for five years.
“Having a coach like Coach Galloway allowed me and my teammates to learn from the best of the best. The knowledge he has from playing professionally I think is a reason I have grown and developed so much over the past five years.”
Heed also eagerly waited for his friends’ name to be called on Tuesday.
“If he gets drafted, which he should, I would be ecstatic for the dude,” said Heed. “Whichever team lands him is getting a hidden gem. ‘BK and the boys’ are always rooting for the guy and to see all the hard work pay off and be recognized as a big leaguer would be awesome to see.”