New position, new mindset: Jules Heningburg’s comeback
By Katie McNulty | Jun 23, 2021
There was a moment in time when Redwoods star Jules Heningburg didn’t know if he would ever play lacrosse again.
When Heningburg first arrived at the Championship Series in Utah, he had a notion that there was a potential he wouldn’t be able to play. He tested positive for COVID-19 in June and was asymptomatic, but any player who had tested positive was required to be further evaluated for tests.
“Once we got to the bubble, Jules and I went to a cardiologist together for his consultation,” said PLL Head League Physician Doctor Catherine Logan. “When we were there, he did a series of tests, including your regular physical exam as well as an EKG and then we did an ambulatory pulse ox where you’re looking at the oxygen levels not just once you’re seated, but when you’re moving. We went from a hallway up until a stairwell and found that even with a handful of steps, he was desatting to the low 80’s.”
After talking with Dr. Logan and Redwoods head coach Nat. St Laurent, the three decided it was best for him to not play as he was at high risk for cardiac arrest.
“It was disheartening,” Heningburg said. “There was so much going on in the world leading up to that. Not only in covid, but with the BLM movement, and what that meant for our league and a lot of the players. It was tough because I wanted to go out there and play for that, but I knew that my health was important, and I trusted coach Nat’s decision.”
Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent told Heningburg that they could roll the dice and take other tests if necessary, but if that were his son, he would not let him play.
Heningburg tried to make the most out of a difficult decision even though he didn’t know if he would ever get to play lacrosse again.
“The biggest thing that helped me was being able to accept another challenge mentally and grow from it as a person,” he said. “I think I did a lot of developing in the past year in a lot of different ways.”
Dr. Logan commended Heningburg for his reaction. There weren’t a ton of athletes out there who were dealing with low oxygen levels after covid, especially ones who didn’t have symptoms.
“It’s a tribute to Jules,” Logan said. “I think you have to remember that setting it was all in. There was a lot of unknown and uncertainty, and when a physician is telling you you can’t play, there’s not a lot of guidance for how long it’s going to take to recover and what those next steps will be….That’s a big turning point for an athlete.”
Heningburg had to wait until November to revamp his training—which is when his oxygen levels finally increased to a steady level.
Once Heningburg was cleared, not only did he have to get used to the pace of the game again, but he was preparing to switch positions.
Heningburg was an attackman in his first season with the Redwoods, but St. Laurent thought he should switch to midfield for the 2021 season.
St. Laurent said Heningburg reminded him of Peter Baum, a Tewaaraton-winning attackman turned pro midfielder. St. Laurent thought the Redwoods were missing a guy like Peter Baum on his team, so he looked to Heningburg to fit that role.
Heningburg’s motto has always been to leave no stone unturned, so he got right to work and started practicing.
“Coach Nat is pretty transparent with me about expectations and my role,” Heningburg said. “I’m the type of player that will adapt to what my teammates need. If someone needs to be more off-ball, or someone has to play righty or lefty; I’m able to do that with my skill set.”
June 4 marked the season-opener for the PLL, but it was also the first time Heningburg played a professional lacrosse game in almost two years. Heningburg even saw instant success in his first weekend as a midfielder. He recorded seven points and helped lead the Redwoods to a 2-0 start.
Heningburg called it one of the coolest moments he’s ever experienced in lacrosse.
“For it to be my opening game after having so much time off and be playing a new position and finding any success in that game was going to fire me up,” he said. “It took me a while to score my first goal. I am not normally one to celebrate, but I have not been that excited to score a goal in my whole life. I was just grateful to play a part and for us to be able to squeak out that win.”
Heningburg fought like crazy to make a comeback, and it didn't go unnoticed by the Redwoods.
“To be able to see him go through what he went through just to get back on the field and then once he got back on the field be asked to change the role that he played in previously, and how he responded to that just shows who is character is and what this young man is all about and that’s why I love him,” St. Laurent said.
Heningburg is a star in the making, but Redwoods midfielder Myles Jones said what really makes him stand out is his leadership skills. He’s someone that not only wants to improve his game, but he wants to make everyone around him better.
“Kyle Harrison, a 17-year veteran and future Hall of Famer, in practice wasn’t getting out to be an outlet for one of the attackmen, and Jules yelled to him, ‘Hey Kyle, that’s gotta be you right there.’ I was standing right next to him when he said that and was like he’s right, and I don’t think I would have said that to Kyle Harrison. Kyle is an idol for me and Jules, but that’s just Jules. He’s a natural leader. He demands a lot from his teammates.”
While St. Laurent moved Heningburg to a midfielder, he knows he can rely on Heningburg for anything.
“At the end of the day, Jules Heningburg is a lacrosse player,” St. Laurent said. “If I told him I needed to go try short-stick d middie, he’d give it a try.”