For most college athletes, playing beyond their school’s season is unheard of.
The same cannot be said about Ohio State’s incoming senior lacrosse midfielder Jesse King.
Following a junior season which saw him named a third team All-American and a Tewaaraton Award nominee, King can now add another accolade to that list: Federation of International Lacrosse World Lacrosse champion.
Two weeks ago, Canada avenged its pool-play loss to the United States by shutting down the Stars and Stripes, 8-5, to win its third ever gold medal at the World Championships. Canada also won the event in 2006 and 1978.
King, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, where he attended Claremont Secondary School, said the importance of the tournament went far beyond just winning the gold medal.
“It was pretty amazing,” King said. “My whole family was out watching the (championship) game. They came down and watched all my games which was pretty special for me because at school they don’t get to watch me play very often.”
“Winning the gold medal was pretty emotional. It was just kind of like unbelievable and it still hasn’t kicked in right now.”
OSU coach Nick Myers said the opportunity King got to learn from the best players in the world will give him a leg up during his final season in Columbus.
“Certainly with Jesse being a part of the team currently, having one more year, what an incredible experience to take away for a young man his age to have a world championship under his belt,” Myers said.
In his three seasons with the Buckeyes, King has compiled 131 points on 77 goals and 54 assists, good for 17th on OSU’s career points list. Continuing that success with Canada, King recorded one goal and three assists in seven games despite being one of only four current collegiate athletes on the team.
Appearing in every game for his country, King provided a physical presence at the midfield position by using his 6-foot, 3-inch frame to ward off defenders, something Myers and erstwhile OSU defenseman Joe Meurer said can be a matchup nightmare.
“I think anytime you have a player who is 6-foot-3, 200 plus pounds, can see the field very well, can beat his man, and work just as hard off the ball, there is a lot to think about there,” Myers said.
“He is one of the smartest lacrosse players I’ve ever played with,” Meurer said. “His knowledge of the game, his instincts and awareness, I think those three things make him such a dominant player and sets him apart from a lot of other players.”
However, before donning the iconic maple leaf, King first had to make the cut from the initial 51 players who were invited to Team Canada’s selection camp which was held on the campus of Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., from Oct. 11 to 14, 2013.
A total of 97 players submitted tryout applications which were considered by The Canadian Lacrosse Association.
Among those invited to camp included reigning Major League Lacrosse MVP Kevin Crowley, attackman John Grant Jr., who is widely regarded as one of the finest players to ever play the game, and OSU’s all-time leading goal scorer Logan Schuss.
“It was very intimidating,” King said. “I’m going up against guys that I hear about in the news or all over social media about how well they play in the NLL or MLL, and I just kind of moseyed on in and got the opportunity to try out.”
Even though more seasoned players, such as Schuss, got cut and Grant Jr. was forced to watch the tournament from the sidelines after his application for a Therapeutic Use Exemption was denied, King played his way onto the 24-man roster that traveled to Denver, Colo., in early July.
Then, on July 10, King and his fellow Canadians stepped into the limelight.
After an opening ceremony which saw a record 38 nations, including nine first-time nations, Canada took the field for a primetime showdown against arch-rival USA in a clash of lacrosse heavyweights.
In what was widely considered a preview of the gold medal game, Canada struck first, jumping on top of the defending champions, 3-0. However, the lead was short-lived.
The USA proceeded to score the next eight goals before holding off a late Canadian rally to steal the first game, 10-7.
King said after the game the team didn’t hang its head and instead, focused on getting better throughout the tournament with the mindset that they would see the USA again.
“You really have to take into perspective that a lot of the guys on the American team, who are unbelievably talented, don’t play the box lacrosse that we play and they have a lot more time to practice together,” King said. “Our first practice together as a team, was four days before that game.”
True to his word, King and Team Canada bounced back immediately, rattling off four wins in four days by taking down fellow Blue Division opponents England, the Iroquois Nationals, Japan and Australia.
King scored his lone goal of the tournament in Canada’s 12-4 romp over Australia, which saw them finish pool-play with a 4-1 record to earn an automatic berth into the semifinals.
There, Canada faced its toughest challenge to date in a rematch against a determined Iroquois Nationals squad.
However, just like they had the first time around, Canada managed to slow down the Iroquois’ potent offense to advance to the finals with a 12-6 victory.
With the USA’s semifinal win against Australia, the rematch was set. But with the USA coming in undefeated and loaded from top to bottom, experts gave Canada little shot at an upset.
Undeterred by the predictions swirling around, Canada came out of the gates swinging, building up some early momentum on the USA as they carried a 3-1 lead into the half.
With the USA backed into a corner, Canada held off a late rally that brought the gold medal back to the Great White North with an 8-5 win.
King described the whole experience as once in a lifetime, adding that it was a “treat” to get a chance to be around players from countries such as Uganda as well as suiting up with players he admired growing up.
“The guys we were talking with, Team Uganda, they’ve been playing for four years and the stick skills that they were able to have in that short amount of time was really outstanding,” King said.
As if playing against the world’s best wasn’t enough, King has also been competing for his native Victoria Shamrocks, a Senior A box lacrosse club which plays in the Western Lacrosse Association and competes for the Mann Cup, which is awarded annually to the winner of a championship series played between the WLA champion and Major Series Lacrosse champion.
Last summer, while playing for the junior Shamrocks, King posted an otherworldly 111 points in 15 games and he hasn’t slowed down since making the jump to the senior level.
In 10 games this season, King has tallied 41 points, good for third on the team. Victoria currently sits in first place in the WLA with a 14-2-2 record as they look to win their first Mann Cup since 2005.
“I was born in Victoria and I was really fortunate to get drafted by Victoria as well,” King said. “Playing box in the summer, it may not be the same style of lacrosse, but it does translate over to field lacrosse. It makes you smarter, it makes you more aware, it makes you more alert.”
Later this month, King will be arriving back in Columbus where he will look to lead the Buckeyes back to the NCAA tournament after failing in 2014 to manufacture back-to-back trips for the first time in 10 years.
“Every year, the Ohio State Buckeyes are always contenders, not because we are the most talented, but because we have the grit and the work ethic and we are always willing to do whatever it takes to win,” King said. “I’m very excited to get back on campus, get back in the snake pit and play some games.”
Myers said King has developed more and more as a leader every year since coming to OSU, but there is still some work for him to do to get the most out of his game as well as his teammates.
“You do that by leading by example, encouraging your teammates while at the same time challenging them to a degree,” Myers said. “I think that Jesse has found a balance at that and he’s done better and better every year.”
In January, the talk around Columbus centered around King stepping into that leadership role for Myers and the Buckeyes. Meurer said King has thrived in that role and comes ready to play everyday.
“I know us as a team put a lot of pressure on him last year but he handled it really well,” Meurer said. “He brings his lunch pail to work everyday and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.”
Success hasn’t been uncommon to King as he has been a winner at every level of the game. A true leader on and off the field, fans can only get excited for what’s in store for King and the Buckeye program in 2015.