Injury didn't stop 'glue guy' Jonas Hulbert from helping Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse

Mar. 22—By Jacob Steinberg —

March 22, 2024 at 5:00 a.m.

Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse is more than a team to senior midfielder Jonas Hulbert. It's a family.

His older brother Jamison played for the Vikings from 2015 to 2018 and spoke highly of his experiences within the program. Jonas vividly remembers watching Jamison and the Vikings on their journey to the 2016 state championship game. Ever since, he anxiously awaited his turn to play for Mt. Hebron.

Eight years later, Hulbert is a defensive midfielder and an integral component of a Vikings group that is one of the top public school programs in the state. His senior year is even more meaningful after he missed last season with a knee injury. Hulbert awkwardly stepped into a tackle playing rugby the previous fall and was diagnosed with a torn ACL a few weeks later.

Despite being on the sideline, Hulbert still made an impact. So much so that he was voted by area coaches as the 2023 Howard County recipient of the USA Lacrosse Bob Scott Award, which honors athletes who go above and beyond in service to their school, team and community, according to USA Lacrosse.

Hulbert called the award "a great honor." Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy pointed out that players selected are not always the most talented, but the ones that bring more of the off-the-field intangibles.

"The Howard County coaches have looked at this as someone who kind of portrays the qualities and what we would appreciate in a great coach or a great teammate," McCarthy said. "And then if you want to include like a higher level lacrosse player in that, great, but if not, that doesn't seem to always matter as much."

Hulbert's selection also stemmed from him being the type of player coaches want their younger players to emulate.

"If you had two dozen kids who acted like and played like Jonas, [that is an] unbeatable team with their optimism and work ethic and discipline," McCarthy said. "How he behaves in school and how he treats his peers on the lacrosse team and the relationships that he has with his teachers, they just adore him for the person that he is. Whether you want to throw lacrosse in there or not."

The most challenging part of last season, Hulbert said, was missing out on the camaraderie with his teammates.

While not on the field, Hulbert was still very present within the program, attending every practice that didn't conflict with physical therapy or a doctor's appointment. In his mind, there was no other option. "This team is like a family to me. Just stepping away from it and leaving them out there was not something I could do," he said.

"I just appreciate with him being out all last year showing up every day and saying, 'Coach what I can do?'" McCarthy said. "[We'd say] 'Hey, why don't you go work with these guys, go work with our JV kids for a little bit.' Just anything that we needed, he was ready to do. His attitude was always positive, even though he was recovering from a major injury like that, which is really frustrating."

Coached by his dad growing up, Hulbert has always been a quick learner. Working with those younger players only helped him grow. Seeing the game through a different lens elevated an already high lacrosse IQ.

He's already noticed a difference in the early portion of this season, observing the little things on both ends of the field. Hulbert's seen more patterns and nuances, now more alert of a player sliding across the crease than he might have been earlier in his career.

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"A lot of times when I was on the side, it really allowed me to appreciate the game, appreciate the little things," Hulbert said. "A lot of times I'd be watching drills. When you're actually in them and guys are messing up, you don't really understand why. You just get in the line and run to get it right. But when I was on the side, I was really able to observe the drills and understand the inner workings of why we do this and that, just better understand the game of lacrosse."

The road to get back on the field has been a gradual process. Early in the summer, Hulbert started light running and stick work. He described those first days back as freeing, finally moving closer to a return to a key part of his life.

McCarthy has already seen a tangible difference with Hulbert back in the fold.

"He's a salt of the earth, glue guy," McCarthy said. "When you go through ups and downs of seasons, he's a guy than I can depend on to keep our team focused and keep them on track. Our kids are extremely focused and they're working hard. Sometimes the end goal that's in mind for them supersedes what we need to accomplish today. Jonas is one of the hardest workers, but he also has such a good personality about him that he can bring a lighter mood to practice sometimes."

Defensive midfield isn't a glamorous position. Hulbert's impact on the game, such as routinely clearing the ball to give the offense possession, often goes unnoticed by those outside the program. However, he relishes that role.

"I take a lot of pride in that," Hulbert said. "A lot of times, I'm not the star of the show. I'm usually the guy running the ball up and down the field playing defense. In high school, I've always accepted the role that I'm there to alleviate a lot of the stress on the team and make sure that our stars can shine.

"We obviously have a lot of talent on the team and I love being the guy that helps them go. My coaches and my teammates always acknowledge me and let me know that they appreciate everything that I do and that's honestly enough for me."

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