Would-be All-American gets another chance

What happens to a dream deferred? Brian Hunt ’02 saw his dream destroyed for an entire season — and seemingly, forever — only to resurface with renewed promise in his final months at Yale.

Hunt, the lacrosse team’s leading scorer who had scored at least one point in every game in 2000, broke his ankle and tore a ligament during the last practice before the 2002 spring season’s first game. This injury would land him not on the bench, but on crutches or horizontal on the couch for the entire lacrosse season of his senior year.

“Practice was essentially over when it happened,” recalled Hunt’s teammate, midfielder Todd Merchak ’02. “On the very last play Brian ran towards the goal, someone stepped on his ankle, and as he rolled, his foot stayed in place. I heard him scream right away.”

Merchak said that right after the accident it had looked as if Hunt’s shoe had popped off. In fact, his entire ankle had ripped apart during the fateful play.

“It was pretty disgusting. It’s something I’m never going to forget,” Merchak said.

To remain eligible to play in the Ivy League, Hunt would have had to leave Yale in his final semester and return next spring to complete his degree and lacrosse career. For Hunt, the confusion about whether to withdraw for a year, combined with the shock of being away from lacrosse for the first time in eight seasons, sent him into a tailspin of confusion and frustration.

“[The injury] was one of the worst things that ever happened to me,” he said.

Prior to this year, Hunt was used to being the main attraction on lacrosse teams. Since his freshman year in high school, at Unionville High in West Chester, Pa., Hunt had twice been named his team’s most valuable player, received All-League First Team honors every year, and All-State First Team honors in his senior year. This final award came one year after he had led his team to a league championship, and in the same year — 1998 — when he was named team captain and earned All-American honors.

His Yale career had been just as brilliant and decorated. “He has quick hands, excellent stick skills, and is a legitimate All-American candidate,” reads his excitable profile in the lacrosse media guide for the 2002 season, right before launching into Hunt’s golden statistics.

It did not foreshadow that Hunt’s final semester at Yale would not be passed running down verdant fields, but, in Hunt’s words, “on my couch, watching VH1 and MTV.”

And to add insult to Hunt’s injury, “our team did really well, it looked like they were having so much fun — it was frustrating to watch,” he said.

Yale went 9-4 on the season, the 13th-ranked team in the nation.

“It’s tough when you lost your best scorer,” said Merchak. “But in terms of running a team offense and everyone contributing, we did step up this season.”

But now, after he graduates, Hunt’s college lacrosse career will take a better turn, although unorthodox.

With unswerving help from coaches and Athletic Department officials, Hunt secured a full scholarship to the University of Maryland’s School of Business next fall. While there, he will use his final season of eligibility to play one more year of lacrosse for Maryland’s legendary team — the same squad, ironically, that burst Yale’s bubble this season when their victory over the Bulldogs insured Yale would not grab an at-large postseason bid.

“I liked Yale a lot, but I didn’t want the financial burden of staying one more year, and I want to graduate with my class,” Hunt said.

Asked about the prospect of being a graduate student on Maryland’s team next year, Hunt said he is just happy to be back on the field.

“While I’m at Maryland Business School with 30-year-olds, I think playing lacrosse will be a good way to meet people my own age,” he said.

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