This article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which mails to US Lacrosse members this week. Don't get the mag? Join USL and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.
Hessler's Even-Keeled Approach Won't Change
by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
LM Division III Preseason Player of the Year DJ Hessler says he's OK taking a backseat on offense if Tufts' opponents key on him.
© Kevin P. Tucker
Watching DJ Hessler amble between the academic buildings at Tufts, it's easy to peg him for exactly what he is — a biomedical engineering major carrying a 3.5 grade point average.
The best player in NCAA Division III? Oh, he's that too, Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year. But you probably wouldn't guess that at first glimpse.
"He's definitely one of the most competitive guys I've been around, but if you ever saw him around campus you'd laugh at me when you saw how unassuming he is," said Jumbos coach Mike Daly. "When you put him between those lines he's as fierce a competitor as we've ever had at Tufts."
The fierceness might not always show when Hessler pulls on Tufts' trademark brown and light blue jersey. Despite dominating just about every opponent he has faced over the past two seasons, Hessler takes the same even-keeled approach to a clutch goal or pivotal assist as he would to meandering across the quad.
"For me, it's great that we scored a goal, but we haven't won the game," Hessler said. "We haven't done anything yet that justifies a big celebration, at least in my mind."
Hessler and the Jumbos did plenty of celebrating last year when Tufts won the national championship after Hessler picked apart Salisbury's aggressive defense. He finished with a goal, four assists and the Most Outstanding Player honors, which came on top of his NESCAC Player of the Year kudos following a dominant, 91-point (37g, 54a) season.
Hessler understands that every team will be searching for his kryptonite this season as the Jumbos embark on their quest for a repeat, but he's more than willing to take a backseat if it means team success.
"We've always told ourselves that if opponents want to throw in some kind of gimmick defense we have enough weapons so that if they don't want to play us straight up, we're going to take advantage of their weakness," Hessler said.
The senior will continue his role as mild-mannered student until this spring, when he will once again put on his uniform and keep the Jumbos safe from villains seeking their trophy.