College Feature: John Sexton – Notre Dame

College Feature: John Sexton – Notre Dame

By Michael Abelson @Abels0n –

Photos – Notre Dame Athletics

By any measure John Sexton is a successful lacrosse player. The Lincoln-Sudbury graduate was a star in high school and has become an even bigger star at Notre Dame.

A captain in both football and lacrosse at LS, the former Under Armour All-American has been a part of the defensive rotation since day one. Last year, as a sophomore, Sexton was named a second-team All American at the LSM position by the USILA, and this year he’s leading the Irish in ground and putting together another All-American caliber campaign.

Before Sexton and the Irish open the NCAA Tournament this weekend against Marquette, BostonLax caught up with John to talk lacrosse, being successful, and thriving in South Bend.

The other players I’ve talked to this season have been freshman and have said that the biggest adjustment from high school to college is getting used to the speed of the game. You’ve successfully done that. What was the big key to being able to transition to the faster style of play?

It comes down to reps in the fall, whenever you can. The fall is a huge adjustment period. You only get so much time. I think you need to take advantage of the older guys, pick the brain of the coaches, because when it comes down to it no one’s waiting for you. You’ve got to go out and do it yourself.

Now that you’re an upperclassman how have you transitioned from guy that’s learning to guy that’s giving advice to the younger kids?

After a couple of years of doing it, [you figure out] what are the major things you need to know. One of the first things we did is all the upperclassmen defensemen talk to the younger defensemen about our vocabulary. The different terminology we’re using throughout the game. I think that’s the first thing.

The second part of that is we reiterate a lot that if you’re loud you can’t be wrong. Even if you’re wrong and loud someone can correct you. I think that’s another thing that we stress. A lot of it’s vocabulary based because you’re getting these kids that are phenomenal players, phenomenal athletes, so you have guys that are pretty adjusted to the speed of the game but need to be thinking the game a little better.

You were a pretty good football player in high  school as well. How did being a multi-sport guy help you as a college lacrosse player?

Just competing every season. Maybe football adds some physicality to your game, but just competing for as many seasons of the year as you can because you can only get so much out of lifting and workouts, which is very important. There’s something about playing at game speed that really sharpens you.

How did your years at LS prepare you to be a successful player at the college level?

They gave me a lot of tough love. They let me know I was going to be stepping into an environment where you’re not going to be very good anymore. You’re going to have to work your way back up. Coach Vona told me you’re going to be the bottom dog for a while and have to work your way back up. They just never let me rest. They always kept me hungry, always kept me fighting.

John Sexton – Photo Credit – Notre Dame Athletics

Do you still keep in touch with your old LS teammates and the current Warriors?

Absolutely. I’ve been cheering them on. I’m a bit disappointed in their number three ranking right now. I’d take them over Sebs and whoever else is ahead of them, but I guess that’s for you guys to figure out I guess.

What added excitement is there in the final being at Gillette Stadium this year?

It’s something on the back of the mind on all the Mass guys. I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it because we have a matchup right off the bat with a good Marquette team. It would definitely be pretty special to come full circle to play in front of some of the coaches and players I grew up beside.

How do you balance the academic load of being a finance major with being a D1 athlete at a school like Notre Dame?

They have tremendous resources here: a couple of great academic advisors, a great tutoring system. I think it’s been utilizing those resources to the max and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it. It can be challenging at times. I think it comes down to putting the hours in. You’re going to realize you’re not going to live a normal student life. You’re going to stay in the library a little later some nights. It’s just getting that through your head.