The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Jesse Hubbard’s place in lacrosse history.
During his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program from 1995-98, the sharp-shooting Hubbard set team records for single-season goals (53) and career goals (163) that still stand.
Hubbard lifted his game come playoff time, scoring 43 points on 33 goals and 10 assists in 11 NCAA tournament games as he helped Princeton to national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
After graduation, Hubbard was a key member of a U.S. squad that won the 1998 World Championship. He went on to a superb career in the pro ranks, retiring in 2008 as the leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse history with a total of 248.
So when Hubbard was recently named to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Class of 2012, it was a no-brainer to most.
But to Hubbard himself, the honor came as a surprise. “They announced the nominations through their website,” said Hubbard. “The other names were such great players; I didn’t think I would get picked.”
The understated Hubbard, true to character, downplays his record-shattering Princeton career.
“It was just my job; it was my role to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Hubbard, 36, a Washington, D.C. native.
“I was just playing the game. Records are meant to be broken and I’d love this one to be broken because that would mean that someone was doing a lot of scoring for Princeton.”
Part of Hubbard’s reticence to take too much credit comes from the fact that he views himself as one cog in an attack unit for the ages along with classmates Jon Hess and Chris Massey.
“Jon and Chris are two of my very best friends,” said Hubbard of the trio which combined for 618 points over their storied careers.
“It is very unique. We were three guys who meshed so well on the field with the way we played and off the field, we meshed with our personalities. Two of us were always thinking that the third was the best. We had respect for each other.”
In Hubbard’s view, his selection to the Hall of fame is a reflection of what the unit achieved collectively.
“That’s what I said to Jon and Chris; it is nice to have people remember what we did,” said Hubbard. “A big part of this is representing the whole era.”
When Hubbard looks back on his Tiger era, he takes great pride in the program’s three-peat.
“It is pretty amazing that we could win three titles in a row; I watch college lacrosse now and it is so competitive and unpredictable,” said Hubbard, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the 1996 NCAA final against Virginia.
“You see a team like Loyola win this year, they came into the season unranked. To win one is awesome, to get two is pretty difficult and to win three in a row is amazing. It is a testament to the coaching staff and the way the players stepped up under the pressure.”
Hubbard credits Princeton head coach Bill Tierney with impacting his development on and off the field.
“The thing with Coach T is that although you didn’t realize it at the time, he was preparing you for life,” added Hubbard, who is a driving force of Motive Pure, a company that markets a rehydration solution, and runs the Jesse Hubbard Experience lacrosse camps
“Whether you were in corporate world, teaching, or coaching, he taught lessons you needed to succeed. The first lesson was preparation; he was obsessed about preparing for every possible scenario. The second was having high standards and not settling for anything less. He rode the best players harder than anyone in order to get the most out of them.”
Coach Tierney, for his part, quickly realized that Hubbard could emerge as one of his best players.
“When we first saw him, we said ‘wow this guy can really shoot the ball,’” said Tierney, noting the fact that Hubbard’s older brother, Andy, was a midfielder for the Tigers helped ease the recruiting process.
Things took off for Hubbard when he was teamed with Hess and Massey as a sophomore.
“It was ridiculous when we got them on the field,” said Tierney, acknowledging that he had Hubbard miscast as a midfielder in his freshman campaign.
“The description of those guys was always feeder, dodger, and shooter. They complemented each other and moved toward each other as their careers went on.”
But Hubbard will stand out to Tierney as having a sniper’s mentality. “We would talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the other goalies,” said Tierney, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame himself in 2002. “He told me after he graduated that he shot at the strengths. He said he knew if he could beat them there he would kill them on their weaknesses.”
The feats of Hubbard and running mates Hess and Massey helped strengthen Princeton’s stature in the lacrosse world.
“Scott Bacigalupo ’94 and Kevin Lowe ’94 were the faces of Princeton lacrosse when we turned the corner,” said Tierney of the pair who were inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2010 and 2009, respectively. “Hubbard, Hess, and Massey were the faces when we gained legitimacy.”
Tierney is not surprised that Hubbard is the first of the trio to get the call for the Hall of Fame.
“Since Jess continued his career in MLL and was on a world championship team, I thought he was clearly the first one to get in,” said Tierney.
“It kind of rekindles what we all knew and how great they were.
Hess should get in but Massey tends to get overshadowed.”
Hubbard, for his part, believes his selection to the Hall of Fame speaks to the greatness of the Princeton program and what it has achieved since the early 1990s.
“I went to Kevin Lowe’s induction and he had a chip on his shoulder,” said Hubbard, who will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame on October 20 along with Brian Dougherty, Roy Colsey, Jen Adams, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Tim Nelson, Cindy Timchal, and Missy Foote.
“He thought Princeton hadn’t got the respect it deserves. He said you will be seeing a lot more of us in here. It is a tremendous honor; I look at the list and they are all guys I admired and looked up to in the game.”
And there is no question that Hubbard belongs on any list of the greats of the game.