Beast Baptiste the New Era of Faceoff Specialist

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

Faceoff specialists have been traditionally designated as “faceoff get-off” players, hence the FOGO acronym, but the University of Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse phenom Trevor Baptiste has completely redefined the position in his first three years at DU.

The junior from Denville, New Jersey has not only taken the position to new heights as he continues to set and break records, but he was the first faceoff specialist in the history of the award to be named a finalist for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award, lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy, as a faceoff specialist. While national champion Maryland’s Matt Rambo won the award, Baptiste’s nomination and assumed status as the runner-up to Rambo has established a new era of the man at the X.

“I think it’s great to be [named a Tewaaraton Finalist], getting face-offs when it’s such an important part of the game,” Baptiste said. “It’s such a possession-heavy game so face-offs really mean a lot and I think that it’s just a factor of growing the game more. Just showing that there are a lot of different positions and they’re all really important. For all the other youth players growing up to take pride in whatever role they have growing up and be the best at it and best you can.”

To-date, Baptiste has amassed 879 faceoff wins in 1,248 attempts over the course of his career. That’s an astounding winning percentage of 70%(!). Adding to his faceoff heroics, he’s also added 22 goals in the past three seasons, 12 of which were tallied in 2017. To think all that success started out with a late bloomer is mind-boggling.

Dubbed the ‘Beast Baptiste,’ the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder is more dominant at the X than any other specialist in the nation. In comparison to the other top ten faceoff specialists in the NCAA, Baptiste has the highest percentage of the 2017 season of 74.4%, which also set an NCAA record.

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Prior to his lacrosse days, Baptiste originally was a competitive swimmer and was on track to be a junior shocker there given his incredible athleticism, but he hit a plateau got burned out. That’s when he turned to lacrosse.

“I just stopped getting better, I peaked when I was like 14-years old,” Baptiste said. “It was really discouraging just not getting better.”

While Baptiste didn’t stick with swimming, the sport prepared him for the head-to-head competition he continues to experience at the X.

“It definitely teaches you competitiveness, just that head-to-head competition. It’s just you and the water,” Baptiste said. “Individual competitiveness and also that want to win. It’s all about who touches the wall first so sports like track and swimming are clean-cut, it’s whoever is faster wins. It comes down to that and taught me a lot.”

Denver’s legendary head coach Bill Tierney attests to what an elite athlete Baptiste is in his capabilities to excel in the pool and on the field. “For him to be able to do the swimming thing at a pretty high level at 14-years-old or so and to change that over to football or lacrosse because his body was changing whether was it was his love for the sport or other people were longer and leaner, he’s just too multiple.

“As an athlete, I think he’s under[estimated]. When a lot of other people of athletes see him on film I think they see him and say, ‘Oh he’s heavy or he’s slow, we can take the ball from him.’ He’s just always proved everybody wrong. It’s just a great story,” Tierney continued.

Even though Baptiste has dominated the X in Division l lacrosse the past three seasons he actually didn’t start his career at that position.

“I played defense to start out then I decided I wanted to score goals so I played attack,” Baptiste said. “Then my coach in high school switched me to midfield. We had a faceoff guy who was really good in high school and we didn’t have a backup. My coach took face-offs in college and thought I’d be really good at it, I was just kind thrown into my sophomore year. Then junior year I just started taking over.”

Baptiste had a story tale recruiting process that eventually brought him DU. After attending and dominating at an Under Armour All-American camp, he sent videos to Denver’s then-defensive coordinator Dylan Sheridan.

“One of my friends and coach would train with me and take videos of me and send it to Coach Sheridan,” Baptiste said. “We would just be in this little basement in the winter and he would get really good high school face-off guys and we would go against one another and he would send film. So I got recruited pretty solely off of film.”

Baptiste was originally committed to a Division lll school, but soon after sending his footage to Sheridan, he received an offer from Denver.

“It was pretty unorthodox, I was committed to a Division lll school to start out. I looked at other Division l schools, but never top five like Denver,” Baptiste said. “Then Denver called me senior year in March which was really late. I got the call from Coach Sheridan and I was like, ‘You guys know I’m a senior right? I’m committed somewhere else. You guys got the right guy right?’ I came out here checked it out, committed and just really like it in March.”

Baptiste is notoriously humble, so despite the recognition of lacrosse’s most prestigious award, he’s always focused on improving his individual game to help achieve team success.

“It’s honestly complex because there are so many factors that go into Trevor as a person and Trevor faceoff guy and yet it all comes to together with these accolades and everything,” Tierney said. “What I mean by that is as a person you’ve heard me say this before that he’s such a kind, humble, wants to give credit to his teammates even though a lot of the time it’s his day that’s doing well, he’s just a great person. When it comes to the skill development and what this thing takes, first of all, he’s got the perfect body for it. He’s 210-pounds, stocky yet quick. He’s worked on what a lot of faceoff guys just pick up a ball and get rid of it. He knows how to shoot. He knows how to play defense. He picks up ground balls. He knows what’s going on around him. The only thing I’ve ever seen in him which I think is a good thing when it comes to coaching; is he’s a little bit tough on himself. There’s just been no greater combination of a guy to play in this position in my opinion throughout the years. It’s a perfect storm.”

The Tewaaraton may have once again avoided straying from the mundane by awarding another attackman, but in his school’s spirit, Baptiste has truly pioneered his position and done so with such grace and humility. He captivates as a genuine role model and has been prominent in helping grow the sport.

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