Rumors swirled about Jesse Schwartzman in the past couple of weeks. Would he return to Denver for another tour of duty in 2016? Walking into Mile High Stadium on Saturday afternoon there was no clear answer. As the game started, the New York Lizards did what the New York Lizards do: they scored early and often on the Denver Outlaws. Stalwart of Denver’s back line, Jesse Schwartzman was in net. Watching him play I couldn’t help but continually ask myself, “will he hang ‘em up?”
I received my answer with under three minutes left in the half. Schwartzman started the clear and all of a sudden turned on the jets, sauntered passed a New York defender and stepped over into the offensive half of the field. That little sashay past the defender sealed it. I knew he was calling it a career. This was Jesse Schwartzman after all, not Brett Queener. He doesn’t run the field like this. Schwartzman registered a shot on goal with 2:27 remaining in the first half.
John Grant would score on thirty seconds later. Schwartzman surrendered one last goal to New York’s Jojo Marasco, and Mike Bocklet finished the scoring for the half with four seconds remaining, to bring the Outlaws within five. The teams ran to the locker room for the break.
Denver Coach B. J. O’Hara started giving Dillon Ward increasing time in net as the season wore on. When Ward came out during halftime to warm up I knew the Outlaws organization was at the end of an era.
This was even more apparent and poignant because the team retired Lee Zink’s number at half time. Schwartzman was one of the first the embrace his former teammate at the conclusion the ceremony. Two of the greatest defenders the organization ever saw suit up, embraced with that sense of appreciation and shared intuition of what was coming next.
Denver rallied in the second half to push the game to overtime thanks to a Grant goal, and Drew Snider notched his fifth of the game in overtime to seal the win for the Outlaws, and to ensure that the team wouldn’t fall below .500 for the first time in team history.
Lacrosse fans in Denver have been spoiled for the past decade with the Outlaws. Schwartzman has been such an integral piece of this team that most people forget that when the Outlaws drafted him in 2007 he split time with Trevor Tierney, one of the greatest goalies to ever play the position. Undaunted by the idea of splitting time with a legend, over the next nine seasons Schwartzman put in the work to ensure that when the Outlaws create a totem pole for the goaltending deities that have donned the orange and black, Schwartzman will have a place of prominence.
No doubt every panegyric for Schwartzman will discuss his career numbers: the 106 starts, the 71 wins, the .545 career save percentage, the 2014 MLL Championship.
What they don’t tell is the story off the field. The leadership that Schwartzman provided in the locker room and the trust that the Outlaws’ coaching staff had in their netminder through thick and thin. When asked about splitting time between his goalies this year O’Hara made no bones about the fact that Schwartzman was his guy, despite any struggles he may have had in his final season. That type of faith isn’t granted: it’s earned.
Don’t be surprised if we see Schwartzman’s #19 grace the north end zone along side Zink’s #29 next year.
As the book closes on Jesse Schwartzman’s professional lacrosse career, he will be remembered as winner. One of the greatest winners in league history for that fact. Not a bad legacy. Not a bad legacy at all.
So as Schwartzman walks away, becoming The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, it’s fitting to say thanks for so many great moments Jesse.