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Wilbur thriving in final season, defying odds
In the world of college sports, walk-on athletes are fairly common. What isn’t common, however, is a walk-on who becomes a pivotal player, a captain and a leader.
And that is exactly what Brendan Wilbur has done for the Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team.
After finishing with 20 points last year, the Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse forward already has 23 points with two games remaining. This past Saturday against Sacred Heart, Wilbur had two goals and two assists. This wasn’t always the case for the senior, however.
“I think it’s an interesting story,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Fekete said. “Freshman year, Brendan didn’t touch the field much at all. The beginning of his sophomore year was much of the same.”
Then came the mid-season conference game against Northeast Conference opponent Bryant University.
“We were being shut down pretty well, so I looked at my coaching staff and said, ‘Let’s get the fastest lineup out there, get Wilbur in,’” Fekete said. “He had two goals that day, and ever since he has been a big part of our team.”
Since that game during his sophomore year, Wilbur has gotten the playing time that has allowed him to ascend a the leadership role, mentoring the younger talent on Quinnipiac.
“I think it just comes with working hard,” Wilbur said. “Each year you have the opportunity to build on the last. You see the points increase every year, and it shows that the hard work ultimately pays off.”
For best friend, roommate, and fellow senior teammate Jay Binkowski, it’s easy to see how Wilbur has claimed such a large role within the team. He leads by example.
“He comes to work every day and always puts in 100 percent,” Binkowski said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s hurt or not, he always pushes through it. That sets a good example for everyone else.”
Wilbur’s growth has impacted his teammates as well. Though he sets a good example for the younger players now, his peers have had a large impact on his development over the years to help achieve his status.
“If I make a mistake, they get on me and tell me ‘you can’t do that,’” Wilbur said. “Everything I’ve done personally really comes from the guys pushing me, and that’s how I’ve gotten to this point.”
Wilbur also gives the coaching staff a large portion of the credit for what he has been able to accomplish during his Bobcat tenure.
“The coaches really hold a high standard for us,” Wilbur said. “They just want what’s best for us and best for the team, and they know how to make us better.”
Wilbur’s work ethic and relentlessness make him a player coaches anywhere covet.
“Brendan has the intangibles you look for in every player,” Fekete said. “He’s very competitive, his will to win is very strong, and that’s what makes winners.”
Listed at just 5-foot-8, as well as only one of two 160-pound players, Wilbur has never let his size stop him in such a physical sport.
“He’s undersized, but his will to compete and play outmatches that every time,” Fekete said.
One of the largest signs of success Wilbur and his teammates have left thus far at Quinnipiac is the No. 20 overall ranking in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Poll. Back on March 4, the squad became the first to do so in program history.
“The thing about Quinnipiac is that we are a small school, but you can see the growth lately,” Wilbur said. “The athletics department is really trying to get us on the map. To get recognized in a ranking like that is very motivating.”
With only two regular season games left for Wilbur and the fellow seniors on the team, the goal still remains as it was day one.
“We’re all here for the bigger purpose of winning a conference championship and making it to the NCAA tournament,” Binkowski said. “A lot of that drives turns over onto the field, and Brendan is a big part of that.”
“We know what we have to do, and what stands in front of us,” Wilbur explained. “We just need to refocus and approach it one game at a time. We’re just working towards our ultimate goal of winning an NEC championship.