GLS regular Reg Hartner goes out and does some actual journalism and tracks down Birmingham Seaholm attack JD Hess, who has committed to Detroit.
When UDM commit Kurt Urban decided to take his talents to Albion, the Detroit Titans were looking for one more playmaker at attack. Enter Birmingham Seaholm’s JD Hess. The 5-10, 160-pound attackman is coming off of a great senior season where he captained Birmingham United to a surprising Final Four appearance and earned 1st team all-area, all-region, all-state, all-American and team MVP honors.
JD was originally accepted to Michigan State in October, and planned to go to school and maybe play some club lacrosse for the Spartans. However, a series of twists and turns during his final year of high school changed his plans in a big way.
Last fall, an All-League, All-County and All-Metro North football season earned him recruiting attention on the gridiron. He took visits to Hillsdale and Albion and was recruited by a number of other small Midwest schools, but wasn’t sure he wanted to put football over a degree from a Big Ten school. The Michigan State football staff took interest in him as a preferred walkon, and he was even hosted by Detroit-area recruiter Archie Collins at the spring game in April.
“The trip was very cool,” Hess said. “All-access stuff and the facilities and coaches were amazing. I’ve been a Spartan fan my whole life, but I realized being a walkon was not what I was looking for.”
Fast forward to spring. Birmingham United brought in a new coaching staff, led by former headman Bert Engel. Engel’s belief in the potential of the program and his expectations for the season were laid out clearly, and very early in his tenure.
“The senior class really bought into it and wanted to help Bert change the culture before we left,” Hess said. “He really knows his stuff and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in any sport.”
Birmingham’s run to the state semifinals – eventually resulting in a 17-6 loss to rival Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice – gave Hess an urge to continue his lacrosse career. His individual success, including 50 goals and 36 assists on the year, inspired him to continue playing at a high level. It also earned him interest from college lacrosse coaches.
When Michigan State lacrosse coaches Dwayne Hicks and Chris Cooper were fired by the Spartans’ student leadership, Hess really reconsider his options. He had planned to suit up for MSU’s club team, and wasn’t sure if he was ready to do that with a new coaching staff in town.
“Their getting fired was a big turning point,” he explained. “It opened my eyes to step back and make sure I reevaluated everything to make sure I knew what I really wanted. BCS football walk on, D2 football scholarship, D1 lacrosse and MCLA lacrosse was a lot to think about. [Detroit assistant lacrosse coach Chris] Kolon had been kind of talking to me my whole high school career, but I always brushed it off and didn’t think he was serious. I played for him for 2 years on 1763 club, and he tried to get me on campus for a visit, but I kind of laughed it off.”
The combination of on-field success as a senior year and upheaval at MSU led Hess to sit down with his family to discuss his options. They decided that the opportunity at UDM was worth a solid look. Although Detroit was not in Hess’s original plans, one trip to campus was enough to change that in a hurry.
“I finally went on a visit 3 weeks ago to Detroit and fell in love with it,” he explained. “I loved the campus and it was a lot nicer than I expected. I was excited about being a Spartan and the Big Ten experience of football Saturdays and the Izzone, but I really liked the idea of smaller class sizes and being a D-1 athlete more. Coach Kolon laid out his plans for me and I decided to commit right there while on my visit.”
Hess is the fifth All-American in the Titans’ 2012 class and another multisport athlete – a category they love to recruit. I’m excited to see what he, Chris Perry, Paul Bitetti, Shannen Wesley and Jack Slomsky can do once they focus on lacrosse full time. It’s great to see another local kid commit to the Titans and get a chance to join the Sons of Detroit.
Thanks again to Reg, and congrats to JD on his Division-1 opportunity.