Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi

Jack Hannah and Ethan Walker: The Waterdogs’ dynamic Denver duo

By Wyatt Miller | Aug 19, 2023

As a senior at the University of Denver, Ethan Walker was coming off back-to-back Tewaaraton nominations. But Jack Hannah was still an emerging junior who hadn’t quite reached his potential. 

Before one of their first games in the shortened 2020 season, head coach Bill Tierney pulled Walker aside and said, “‘Ethan, Jack is a great player, but sometimes he gets in his head a little bit. Can you just talk to him for me?’” Walker explained. 

So, he went up to Hannah, who sits in the box before every game, and gave him a short pep-talk. The message was a simple one: “Let’s go, let’s get this one, let’s have some fun,” Walker said. Then, they dapped each other up, shared a hug and walked out onto the field. 

Hannah would go on to lead the team in points (27) in the six-game season, and the tradition stuck. To this day, Walker and Hannah still share that exact message, a dap and a hug before each game. Yet, Walker never told Hannah that Tierney inspired the first rendition of the ritual.

The duo finished one and two in goals for Denver the following season, as their chemistry on and off the field climbed in congruence. The two are always in each other's corner, whether it takes the form of compliments on Twitter (X?) or confidence instilled on the field. Their first season reunited on the Waterdogs ended in the first-ever championship victory for either player, strengthening that bond even further. 

At first, Walker was more of a mentor to Hannah as an older and established offensive player, so Hannah was always asking questions. Like most male friendships, he’s “not really sure” how they got close, they just did. 

“We just enjoy being around each other and hanging out, so might as well do it whenever you can,” Hannah said. 

During the PLL draft process, Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan asked Walker about how Hannah might fit with the team. Walker told him that Hannah was one of the toughest competitors he’d played with and would have a smooth transition into the pro game. 

Copelan pulled the trigger on Hannah in the second round of the 2022 draft, and both players had the same thought when it happened: “We’re back.”

“When we were in college, we would be looking for each other out there on the field and to be able to do that at the pro level is something special,” Walker said. “I’ve always had fun playing with Jack. He’s very creative, he’s very driven, he’s one of the biggest competitors I know.”

For Hannah, this was an opportunity to hit the ground running on offense, along with providing some nice social perks.

“I was probably more excited than Ethan because so many of my assists in college came from going topside and throwing the ball to Ethan and watching him score,” Hannah said. “I was like, ‘this is fantastic, I’m gonna get a bunch more assists, all I have to do is pass the ball to Ethan.’”

The longtime teammates are close friends, but vastly different players. Hannah is a crafty ball handler while Walker is a decisive shooter, which complement each other well. If Hannah draws a slide, he’s still looking for Walker first on instinct, he said, already knowing where the lefty likes to be in different sets. 

Last year, both scored 11+ goals and 17+ points (including playoffs) on their way to becoming the first expansion team champions in PLL history. On deck was the box lacrosse season, and that came with some uncertainty for Hannah.

Throughout their college career, the Denver lacrosse team played box lacrosse on Fridays. Hannah, who grew up in Ohio, had very little exposure to that style of lacrosse, but Walker – a Peterborough, Ontario, native – grew up with it.

Hannah said that Walker and the other Canadian players were “10 steps ahead” during those sessions, so he had to catch up quickly. But as time went on, Walker said he noticed how natural Hannah looked in the box game, showing the size, creativity and stick skills to succeed. Walker encouraged him to strive for both professional leagues, but Hannah wasn’t so sure.

“He just said, ‘trust yourself and you’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about it, man.’ And he was right,” Hannah explained. “He kind of just told me, ‘dude, what are you worried about?’ He just instilled confidence and said some nice things and that’s what Ethan does.”

Hannah ended up playing in a budding college box league in Ohio during his final two collegiate summers to hone his craft. In his first season of high-level box lacrosse in the NLL, he led all rookies in goals and was a finalist for the 2022 Rookie of the Year award. Hannah said his box skills have helped him adjust to the fast pace of the PLL.

Once again, Walker helped Hannah reach new heights by simply brightening his mindset a bit. And this PLL season, it was Walker’s turn to break out, securing career-highs in points (25) and goals (14) for the Waterdogs with Hannah by his side. 

In the past six years they’ve been teammates, foes and roommates – they’ve run camps together and watched countless comedies on nights before games. Now, Waterdogs offensive assistant Robert Cross said the interactions between Walker and Hannah are almost brotherly, and they keep the whole team loose. 

After everything they’ve experienced together, from pandemic rituals to professional championships, they know it’s a bond that can’t be replicated. 

“[At Denver] we didn’t bring any Big East Championships or National Championships, and it’s something that kind of haunts me to this day,” Hannah said. “We’d been working so hard for so long to bring a trophy to whatever team we’re playing with and it was just a really special moment. Hopefully we’re gonna do it again this summer.”