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Hesmer 'incredibly honored' to be Player of the Decade
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Hesmer 'incredibly honored' to be Player of the Decade

As someone who has enjoyed many achievements throughout his collegiate and professional soccer career, William Hesmer still knows home is where the heart is.

When informed he was voted the Player of the Decade in The Wilson Times/Thomas Drug Store Best of the Decade contest, Hesmer's initial response was "Wow! I'm incredibly honored."

Nevermind that Hesmer was a two-time all-state player at Hunt High School as well as the 2000 Wilson Daily Times Athlete of the Year.

Forget that he was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference and two-time All-America goalkeeper at Wake Forest University.

Don't think about the fact that Hesmer was a vital cog in his Columbus Crew's MLS Cup championship team in 2008.

Hesmer was quick to point out that being honored as the Wilson County high school player of the decade was a point of pride.

"This is something I don't think I've even told my parents but I think a lot of what's driven me to success is when I went to Wake is that a lot of people in Wilson wanted to see me do well and I always wanted live up to those expectations," Hesmer said in a telephone interview from Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday afternoon.

His amazing high school career ended in 2000, the first year of the decade as defined by contest parameters. In his senior year, he not only became Hunt's first two-time all-state soccer player but was a standout receiver and kicker on the Warriors' 3-A Big Eight Conference co-champion football team. He was a starter on Hunt's conference champion basketball team and, in the spring, returned to the diamond where he started for the Warriors baseball team.

Hesmer played baseball in ninth grade at Hunt but, at the junior varsity level as a sophomore, was told by the coach he couldn't play baseball and club soccer. So soccer won out.

"That was one of the first things I ever had to quit in my life. So that bothered me," he said.

He asked varsity baseball head coach Stevie Hinnant if he could try out for team as a senior and Hinnant gave him the greenlight. The first day of practice, Hesmer showed why that was a smart move by Hinnant.

"The first live pitch I saw in batting practice. I hit it over the trees," Hesmer said with a laugh. "I was shocked."

But it was on the soccer field where he made his greatest impact. He earned all-state honors as a midfielder his junior year and then moved into goal, his natural position, his senior season when he repeated as an all-state performer.

"I've coached 19 years and he is definitely one of the best athletes I've ever coached," said Brent Walston, Hesmer's coach at Hunt and now the head soccer coach and athletic director at North Johnston. "He had a lot of soccer knowledge when he came to Hunt."

Playing alongside fellow standouts Robert Lane, Jonathan Long and Phillip Long, who would later become Hunt's first soccer All-American, Hesmer said his only regret was the Warriors didn't advance further than the 3-A Eastern final his senior season.

"I'm really disappointed in looking back at how much talent we had that we didn't win," Hesmer said.

Ten years later, Hesmer, 28, looks back fondly at a time when all he seemed to do was play ball.

"I don't think there's one thing," he said when asked about his most vivid memory as a high school athlete. "I just remember it being never-ending. Every day I was at school pretty much from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m."

Although his days as a high school athlete are long gone, Hesmer still loomed large enough to collect 35,280 votes, the most of any Player, Coach or Team of the Decade candidate.

"It's incredible," he said. | 265-7808
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