August 17, 2011

Final-Round Pick Boltus Named MLL Rookie of the Year

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | More: Boltus as Weekend Warrior

Hamilton Nationals attackman Jeremy Boltus was named MLL Rookie of the Year Wednesday. The first-year pro from Army was the Nationals' second-leading scorer, and tallied at least one point in all 12 regular-season games.

© Rich Barnes

Hamilton Nationals attackman Jeremy Boltus was picked in the final round of January's Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft, but he has now been honored as the best of any from his rookie class.

Boltus, the former Army attackman, on Wednesday was named MLL's Rookie of the Year. The award was based on voting by the head coach and general manager of each of the league's six teams. In the voting, Boltus had 44 points. His teammate, David Earl, and Rochester's Joel White tied for second with 11 points.

"I am pretty overwhelmed and very excited to say the least," Boltus said in a press release. "We had a deep draft class and it's truly an honor to be named as the MLL Rookie of the Year.

Boltus, Hamilton's second-leading scorer this season (30 points), thanked the Nationals coaches (assistant coach Gary Gait runs the offense) and veteran players that "helped me out and walked me through the first few games," as well as his peers in Hamilton's well-regarded rookie class.

"I also want to give credit to the other rookies as well because they all had huge years," Boltus said. "I think this is more of a team award than an individual honor and I thank the Nationals for giving me the opportunity to play for them."

Boltus is one of three Nationals rookies to score at least 20 points this season (Earl and No. 1 overall pick Kevin Crowley the others), all of whom have contributed in big ways for Hamilton as they snagged the last spot in the playoffs with a 7-5 record this year. The team finished in last place (3-9) and missed the four-team postseason in 2010.

Boltus led all MLL rookies with the 30 points and was the Nationals leading goal-scorer with 19 goals and his 11 assists ranked third on the team in the regular season. He was a two-time Cascade MLL Rookie of the Week. He was also named MLL Offensive Player of the Week on June 27 after leading the Nationals to a pair of wins over Rochester. He scored seven goals in a 19-16 win over the Rattlers and scored a pair in a rematch the next night.

Not bad for the sixth-to-last pick — No. 43 overall in the eighth round, Hamilton's last pick — in Janurary's rookie draft.

Despite being one of five men's Tewaaraton Award finalists, teams repeatedly passed on Boltus in the draft, wondering whether he could fit in an MLL schedule with his Army obligations, as reported in a story on Boltus last week by's Mark Medina.

Turns out he could. During the week, he works as the Army lacrosse team's athletic intern and as second lieutenant to the school's first duty station. But he makes the six-hour plus drive from West Point, N.Y., to Oakville, Ontario, for practices and home games.

"Exhaustion isn't a big thing for me," Boltus said. "You're playing a game that you love. It's nice to have a long five-day week and then reward yourself with lacrosse on the weekend."

Since Army did not make the NCAA Tournament, Boltus was available to join the Nationals in Week 1 given the league's decision to hold the rookie draft prior to the college season and not after Memorial Day as had been tradition. He jumped right into action with the team, and scored at least one point each of Hamilton's 12 regular-season games.

"He's got that Army approach, that blue-collar, bring-your-lunchpail-to-work-every-day and do his job [attitude]," Boltus' teammate, goaltender Scott Rodgers, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "I think Coach Gait kind of tutoring him and getting his game right, he played with that chip on his shoulder, like 'I might not have been the highest drafted player,' but he showed what he could do. He had a great year for us. He's one of our keys to making this run in the playoffs."

Past MLL Rookies of the Year are, from 2010-2001: Ned Crotty, Dan Hardy, Kevin Huntley, Alex Smith, Matt Ward, Brodie Merrill, Ryan Boyle, Adam Doneger, Conor Gill and Keith Cromwell.

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