Before breaking his arm last winter, Henry Hasselbeck was a three-sport athlete who starred in football, ice hockey and lacrosse. Because of his versatility, he was frequently asked which sport was his favorite.
Hasselbeck usually deferred answering the question — a policy encouraged by his father, Matt.
“You’re really not allowed to answer that question in our house because the answer is, ‘Just do your best at whatever you’re doing, and while you’re doing it, be 100% all-in at that, and eventually the sport will choose you,’” he said.
On Dec. 1, Henry Hasselbeck chose the sport for him — in college, at least — when he verbally committed to play lacrosse at four-time NCAA champion Maryland. Hasselbeck, a 17-year-old junior at Xavieran Brothers High in Westwood, Massachusetts, is set to debut with the Terps in the 2025 season.
Coach John Tillman declined comment, citing an NCAA rule that prohibits coaches from discussing recruits until they sign their National Letters of Intent.
Henry Hasselbeck was also unavailable as his father said the family would prefer he focus on being a student for now. But Matt Hasselbeck, an analyst on ESPN’s “NFL Countdown” on Sunday mornings during the season, used a college football analogy to express his and his wife Sarah’s elation over their son joining Maryland, which won last spring’s national title.
“I thought he was a really talented player with a lot of upside, but I don’t know, I’m his dad,” he said with a laugh. “So when Sept. 1 [the first day of recruiting for juniors] came, it was very humbling to see the interest that he got from some great programs and none bigger than Maryland. That’s like Alabama football. So it was quite an honor, and getting to know the coaching staff and some alumni, you see why they’ve been so good for so long.”
Matt Hasselbeck said they visited Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Air Force and Harvard. But he got an inkling of his son’s preference when he begged his parents to send him to a clinic last winter in College Park rather than at a nearby Ivy League school.
“I would just say that Coach Tillman and the Maryland staff, they were just so impressive in every way, and in a way, relentless might be the right word,” he said. “Not in a pushy way at all, but just in terms of really actively getting to know us and allowing us to get to know them. My wife and I really couldn’t be much more impressed with what we’ve learned about those guys as coaches and the program.”
Athletics runs in the Hasselbeck genes. Grandfather Don played tight end for primarily the New England Patriots, father Matt was a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback primarily with the Seattle Seahawks, and uncle Tim was a quarterback for seven NFL teams.
Mother Sarah played field hockey at Boston College, and older sisters Annabelle and Mallory are junior and sophomore members, respectively, of the Eagles women’s lacrosse program.
Annabelle’s experience as a freshman when Boston College captured the 2021 NCAA championship helped convince her brother to join the Terps, according to their father.
“I think through whatever sport it was going to be for him, the opportunity to compete for a national championship with your teammates is something that he really values because he saw what it looks like,” Matt Hasselbeck said. “I think Maryland gives you an opportunity to compete for a national championship with your teammates.”
Henry Hasselbeck is listed as a four-star midfielder, according to Inside Lacrosse. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Hasselbeck recently completed his first season at Xavieran as the starting quarterback for the football team, and his father served as the program’s quarterbacks coach.
Matt Hasselbeck said the story of former Maryland attackman Jared Bernhardt’s journey from Tewaaraton Award winner to NCAA Division II champion quarterback at Ferris State to wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons appealed to Henry.
“Jared Bernhardt’s story really resonated with Henry, and I think it really resonated with me because he’s a multi-sport athlete,” Matt said. “I just think that some of the best athletes in the country play lacrosse.”
While not completely shutting the door on football, Matt Hasselbeck said any potential offer to sway Henry from playing lacrosse would have to be “impressive.”
“We’ll see what happens, but I think to play lacrosse at Maryland, you’ve sort of got to be all-in,” he said. “Our intention is to play lacrosse at Maryland, and that will be a super-competitive and exciting program to try to compete on.”
Before Henry Hasselbeck made his decision, his father said a conversation he had with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith — whose son Alex was a four-year short-stick defensive midfielder for the Terps — proved “very influential.”
“De was the biggest cheerleader and supporter of Maryland lacrosse and the coaching staff,” Hasselbeck said. “That was a powerful voice for us, for sure.”
Smith said he shared with Hasselbeck the time Tillman spent an additional hour with Alex and mother Karen at the family home even after Smith went to attend another event.
“I’m obviously biased, but you could make the argument that he’s the best coach in college lacrosse now, and you could probably make a pretty good argument that he might be the best coach in college lacrosse history,” Smith said. “What I told Matt was, you will never meet a guy who will be more invested in the success of your kid on and off the field, and I truly believe that.”
Smith met Henry Hasselbeck when the latter and his mother visited the campus on the same weekend in October that the players from the spring received their championship rings.
“He seems like a wonderful young man,” Smith said. “If he’s anything like his dad, Matt is one of the best executive committee members I’ve ever had. Matt was always that guy who was not only smart and educated, but just measured and wise. Just a tremendous guy, and he led the union through some really difficult times. The kid’s coming, and he looks like a stud, which is great.”
Now that Henry Hasselbeck has made his choice, his father quipped that he won’t miss the nightly calls from interested coaches that his son juggled with homework and sleep.
“Even though the process was stressful at times, I think most recruits would say that the hardest part isn’t saying yes, but saying no to the others,” he said. “This is a dream come true and an answer to prayer. It’s been really incredible.”