After being one of the nation's best lacrosse players and a three-time national champion at Princeton, Jesse Hubbard has remained influential in the rapid growth of the sport as both a professional and ambassador.
Even as a middle schooler, it was evident that Jesse Hubbard possessed a rare gift. Remembering stories that proved the point, his older brother Andy said, "Jesse's almost plagued by how good his hand-eye coordination is."
In his four seasons as an attackman for the Princeton men's lacrosse team, Hubbard combined his unparalleled hand-eye coordination with the hardest and fastest shot in the game to become one of the best players in 50 years of Ivy play and one of the elite goal scorers in NCAA history.
Hubbard finished his four years with three national titles and the Tigers went 43-2 in his final three seasons, from 1996-98. His mark of 163 collegiate goals is 17 better than anyone else in Princeton's storied history.
Despite playing in a disciplined Princeton offense, Hubbard ranks ninth all-time in NCAA history in goals scored.
"When I think of all the athletes that have come through Princeton since I've been here, of all these great athletes in all these different sports, he was one of the ones where it was truly a privilege to watch him play every week," says Jerry Price, Princeton's sports information director since 1994. "Nearly 10 years later, he's left a lasting impression on me."
Now Hubbard is trying to leave a lasting impression on others. A star at the professional ranks of Major League Lacrosse -- he was the league's second all-time leading goal scorer entering the 2006 season -- Hubbard also works as a spokesman for Warrior Lacrosse, the industry leader in virtually all men's lacrosse products. He travels the country, giving talks to young lacrosse players and taking part in at least 25 youth camps a year.
In addition, Hubbard serves as the director of the lacrosse division for Headfirst, a Washington-based organization that provides instructional camps to kids in everything from dance to basketball. The highlight of Hubbard's affiliation with Headfirst is the Jesse Hubbard Experience, a youth lacrosse camp for boys ages 9-17 held each summer at George Mason University.
"I want to be involved at the grass roots level, especially in the D.C. area where I grew up," Hubbard says. "After doing all these appearances all over the country, I wanted to hone in on D.C. and make lacrosse a priority in the area."
Those who know him say Hubbard's role as teacher and instructor is a natural progression for someone who has always been passionate about lacrosse. As youngsters, Jesse and Andy spent hours at the St. Albans fields shooting and passing deep into the night, developing the skills Jesse nurtured at Princeton alongside good friends and fellow attackmen John Hess and Chris Massey.
To this day Hubbard is recognized around Princeton and the MLL for his meticulous practice habits and love for the game, and he talks idyllically of playing the game the right way. It is a message tailor-made for kids looking to follow in Hubbard's footsteps.
"He loves the game so much, more than maybe anyone I've known," six-time national champion Princeton lacrosse coach Bill Tierney says of Hubbard. "And the great thing about those three" -- Hubbard, Massey and Hess -- "was that they were great friends. They would always hang out together and it was always lacrosse."
"There is an area here behind our gym where the kids can turn the lights on and they'd be here until midnight all the time, just shooting," Tierney adds. "There's nothing about them that didn't have something to do with lacrosse."
In many ways, that is still true for Hubbard. After graduating in 1998, Hubbard played lacrosse professionally in the indoor National Lacrosse League and took a full-time job with Warrior Lacrosse. He started as the director of product development and moved on to managing the apparel line and working with the marketing department.
As lacrosse has grown, Hubbard has moved out front. Using New York as a base, he has traveled to more than 20 states and two countries as a lacrosse ambassador. That includes frequent trips to California as part of Warrior's Players Club Experience, designed to spur interest in lacrosse on the West Coast, and annually to Manchester, England, where lacrosse has made significant inroads over the past 10 years.
"To show up and have kids ask for your autograph is surreal," Hubbard says. "The first time I saw a poster of myself was a little strange, but I got used to it. It's fun to go to a place where lacrosse is really well known and get the kids excited about it, and it's just a fun thing to do to give back to the sport."
Hubbard says at a recent camp he heard a few of the younger campers marveling at the fact that he was 30. Still, Hubbard says he plans to play professionally for a few more years and to stay active in youth lacrosse well into the future, whether it's running leagues, making appearances or simply inspiring kids to pursue the sport that has become such a big part of his life.
"I never thought I'd be doing what I'm doing now when I was in college," says Hubbard, who turned 31 on September 18. "But I think I'll always be involved (in lacrosse) in some capacity. I'm a fan, when it all comes down to it, and I'll always enjoy teaching."
Ed. Note -- The Times of Trenton called Hubbard's coach, Bill Tierney, the "Lombardi of lacrosse." After taking over a program nearly void of successes in 1987, Tierney's 19 years at Princeton feature six NCAA championships, eight NCAA championship games, 10 NCAA Final Four appearances and 11 Ivy League championships. Not surprisingly, he is a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
— E.J. Crawford