Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse wondering what might have been in Jeremy Huber's senior year

It’s the little things that remind Johns Hopkins midfielder Patrick Fraser of former men’s lacrosse teammate Jeremy Huber.

Anytime the senior sees comedian Will Ferrell, Fraser recalls Huber dressing up for Halloween as Ferrell’s Buddy from the film “Elf.” When “Family Guy” airs on television, Fraser laughs because that show was one of Huber’s must-watches as part of his nightly routine.

And Fraser is reminded of his former teammate every time he slips on a pair of size-12, black dress shoes that Huber lent to him. Fraser wears those shoes for every Blue Jays game.

“He’s on our minds every time we step onto the field,” Fraser said.

Huber died Jan. 26, 2015, of complications caused by pneumonia and flu just days before the 18-year-old freshman defenseman would have taken part in his first spring scrimmage for the Blue Jays. The 2018 season would’ve been his final year at Johns Hopkins, and the players who make up the senior class said Huber’s presence continues to resonate with them.

“We’ve always played to honor him and play the way he would want us to play, and give that effort because that was the kind of person that he was,” said short-stick defensive midfielder Christopher Hubler, who shared Suite 422 in Wolman Hall with Huber, defenseman Samuel Bamigboye and Jorge Jimenez, the only roommate that did not play lacrosse. “He gave great effort on the field and off the field, making people happy. Academically, he was always a person who took strong pride in his academic work, and he was always a smart kid and hard worker on and off the field.”

More than three years have passed since Robert and Nancy Huber received the phone call no parent expects. Every day is a challenge for them and their younger son, Justin, but last month was especially difficult for the Hubers — who live in Las Vegas — knowing that this would have been their elder son’s senior year at Hopkins.

“You always wonder what he would have been doing,” Nancy said through tears. “His friends at Hopkins are interviewing for jobs and looking at grad schools, and we wish that was us.”

No one would fault the Hubers if they kept their distance, but the couple has made several trips annually to Baltimore and other cities to watch the Blue Jays play, including to see Saturday’s 14-6 victory over Towson in the season opener at Homewood Field.

“People are always surprised when we show up to the games, but it just helps to be a part of that,” Robert said. “I was always looking forward to watching the Blue Jays play and watching Jeremy play with the Blue Jays, and it’s still great to see his memory on the field.”

Their son’s memory remains strong. The Jerm19 Fund has become fully endowed as the Jeremy Huber #19 Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund in Piano at the university’s Peabody Institute, and it offers a piano scholarship in honor of Huber, who had played the piano since the second grade.

The lacrosse program has paid tribute to Huber in several ways. The number 19 — Huber’s jersey number — has been repainted on the turf along the Johns Hopkins sideline at Homewood Field. There is a locker outside the team’s film room in the Cordish Lacrosse Center with Huber’s nameplate, jersey, gloves and shoes.

Coach Dave Pietramala said he had a ring made with Huber’s number on it after the 2015 team won the inaugural Big Ten tournament, and the ring sits inside a desk drawer in his office. Pietramala gave Robert and Nancy Huber the same ring — which has nine small embedded starbursts in each leg of a capital H and another in the connecting line for a total of 19 — at the team’s awards banquet in October 2015, and they keep it on a mantel in their house.

“There are times when I sit alone here in the office — and I’m sure I’m not alone feeling this way — and something comes up, and I think of him,” said Pietramala, who has twin sons. “Those are the moments that I can take to reflect, but he’s never far from us here.”

By many accounts, Huber was a thoughtful young man whose smile and energy were infectious. He frequently was the peacemaker when debates between friends escalated in tension. He enjoyed sharing his stash of pretzel M&M’s and Wint O Green Life Savers, but good-naturedly grumbled when someone else finished off a bag. And Huber did not mind when Fraser — as Fraser told it — “overstayed my welcome.”

Fraser acknowledged that playing without Huber has been difficult. But he has been able to draw encouragement from the “JH19” logo printed on every glove worn by current members of the team and something he heard Saturday.

“I overheard someone say after the game on Saturday night that we’ve got the advantage because we’ve got one extra guy out there with us at all times,” Fraser said. “I thought that was a really special way of saying that, and it’s the way the senior class feels.”

Fraser and Hubler said they both wonder how their late teammate would’ve developed on the field and in the classroom.

“He was definitely a great defenseman and had plenty of potential,” Hubler said. “I could definitely see him playing here. … I do know that he would have been one of the people that the freshmen and sophomores would have looked up to. He would have been one of those seniors that the coaches tell the underclassmen, ‘Watch him to see how we do things and to learn the right way.’ I think he would have been a great leader by example.”

The Hubers said they have already accepted the team’s invitation to attend senior day April 28 against archrival Maryland. But it will not be easy.

“I can imagine it will be really tough,” Nancy said. “We’re thankful that they think of Jeremy and they remember Jeremy and they include Jeremy, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

Added Robert: “It will definitely be an emotional afternoon.”

Hubler said he misses Huber “a ton, every day.”

“A quote that Mrs. Huber told me that has helped me a ton is, ‘Live every day like Jeremy would want you to.’ That’s something I think about every time I wake up and before I start my day,” Hubler said. “I just try to live my day having fun and enjoying every minute of it. I try to remember the good times and feel honored that I was able to meet him even though it was just a short time.”

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad