How an Xbox 360 Spawned Dylan Hess' Love for Lacrosse


Dylan Hess has 17 goals and seven assists as a freshman this spring.

Dylan Hess’ lacrosse career is a purely 21st-century tale.

It all started with an Xbox.

Hess was 10 years old, and his parents wanted to find an outlet for their son that wasn’t football. There was also some urgency to do it well before his high school years so he could have experience by the time his athletic career got serious.

A deal was struck, one that’s reverberated into the midfielder’s freshman year at Georgetown.

“My dad promised me an Xbox 360, and of course I couldn’t pass that up,” Hess said. “It helped that my next-door neighbor was a goalie for another school in the area. Initially, I started as a goalie my first year of lacrosse, but my mom hated how much I was getting hit and thought it was a waste of how fast I was. Immediately, she bought me a short [stick] and I went to work.”

He hasn’t stopped, developing into one of the best all-around freshmen in the country in his first season with the fifth-seeded Hoyas (13-2), who meet fourth-seeded Virginia (11-4) in Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinals in Hempstead, N.Y.

His 17 goals and seven assists — commendable if not eye-catching numbers — don’t fully reflect how much value he’s provided Georgetown as a defender, an option on faceoff wings and a transition threat. And he’s found a groove the last two weekends, scoring three goals against Denver in the Big East final and four more in a first-round rout of Syracuse.

“The way he has come into this year and embodied the role he’s taken on as a true freshman, I don’t think has been done in a long time at the level he’s performing,” fifth-year attackman Jake Carraway said. “He’s an instrumental player who I believe could have been a first team All-American compared with any of the guys on that list. He’s a specimen who can do it all on defense, can do it all on offense. He has an awesome future ahead of him — granted what he’s done this year is impeccable. He’s a workhorse. He trains harder than a lot of people I know.”

Hess didn’t have much else to do but train in the fall, when he remained at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with Georgetown’s campus closed because of the pandemic. While a good chunk of the team worked out locally and there were regular team Zooms, the 6-foot, 195-pound Hess had to wait until the spring semester before joining the Hoyas in person.

Like in so many facets of life over the past 14 months, the unknowns were glaring.

“I would say it was a lot of prepping for the worst,” Hess said. “By that I mean, I didn’t know what to expect and that definitely scared me a little bit going in just because it’s my freshman year, and I didn’t really have a concept of what college is in a regular year, so who knows what it would be like in a COVID year?”

It’s telling that even without fall ball and a preseason influenced by virus protocols, Hess began the year on the Hoyas’ first midfield. When junior attackman Dylan Watson returned from injury in early April, coach Kevin Warne and his staff bumped Colgate transfer Nicky Petkevich to midfield.

That left them selling Hess on a new role. He wouldn’t start, but he would probably play more. And Hess, a two-way midfielder in high school before missing his senior year with injury and then the pandemic cancellation, was thrilled.

“We always kind of thought about it, and midseason we said, ‘Listen, we just need to get him on the field,’” Warne said. “As coaches, we have to be smart enough to say, ‘This is what a kid does really well, let’s not put him [in a box] and say he’s just an offensive middie.”

Carraway raves about Hess’ on-field composure, a valuable asset to be sure. But the most striking thing about his late-season work is just how many vital areas he pops up on the field.

Teammates, including Carraway, have urged Hess to get a fitness tracking wristband just so they can follow his heart rate. For his part, Hess acknowledges he’ll occasionally lose his breath, but downplays any tiredness.

“He plays a defensive possession, clears the ball — one-man show — full offensive possession and takes a 30-second break and goes back out,” Carraway said. “This is a kid we’re talking about who will do seven miles in a game, and then the next morning wakes up and runs another three miles. Crazy.”

He’s also just the latest reminder of the talent developing in areas where lacrosse has taken firmer root in recent years. About a half-hour east of Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach is best known as the home of golf’s TPC Sawgrass, which hosts The Players Championship each year.

“Florida not being a hotbed, it definitely puts a little bit of weight on your back,” Hess said. “At the same time, it gives you more motivation to prove to other people you don’t need to be from hotbed areas to excel in the lacrosse world. When I first started playing the game, I fell in love with it. I had a little bit of room to make up, because I was late getting started playing lacrosse. It was every day just because I love the game so much.

“I think that’s where it kind of differentiates the hotbed areas. Those Long Island guys, those Baltimore guys, they have a stick in their hands when they are 3, 4 years old. I think if lacrosse was introduced at younger ages down in these non-traditional areas, these kids would be falling in love a lot quicker and spread it a lot faster.”

Every star to emerge from those areas helps, and Hess seems on his way. Just this month, Hess scored what appeared to be a go-ahead goal against Denver, had it nullified when Warne called timeout before the shot and then went right back out and scored one that counted to beat the Pioneers. Then he overwhelmed Syracuse’s defense to match his career high in goals Saturday.

He’s also picked up a few nicknames along the way. Some — such as “The Machine” — are predictable. Others are more creative. The Hoyas’ don’t-shoot call is “ice,” so they call on the Iceman to kill the clock late in a game.

“I don’t think my mom knew I’d be running around the last 30 seconds getting whacked by D-poles,” Hess said.

Just one more consequence of arguably the most valuable video game console in Georgetown lacrosse history.

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