Lacrosse: Dartmouth next stop for prep All-American Schneider

If you had told Walker Schneider five years ago that he had little or no chance of playing college lacrosse, he would’ve been the first to agree.

“I was really bad at lacrosse in the eighth grade. I didn’t ever think about playing in college until after my sophomore year,” said the Wilton resident and former Wilton Youth Lacrosse player. “I never considered that I could ever play at that level.”

But things change — such as size and attitude and skill. And now Schneider is headed off in a few weeks to play Division I lacrosse at Dartmouth College.

He is coming off an outstanding career, athletically and academically, at Hopkins School in New Haven, one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country.

This past spring, he capped off his lacrosse career at Hopkins by being named a 2015 U.S. Lacrosse High School All-American — the only player from the Fairchester Athletic Association to achieve that honor.

It came as a complete surprise to Schneider when it was announced at the Hopkins awards banquet. His hope, as far as awards go, was to win the award for Western New England Defensive Player of the Year. He didn’t win, but the disappointment quickly went away when it was announced that he was an All-American.

“I was shocked. I was not expecting that. My teammates at the lacrosse team table pounced on me. Almost all of my best friends are on the lacrosse team. They were more excited than I was.”

This past season, the 6’3” close defender was the center of a physical defensive performance (despite playing with a pulled hamstring) by Hopkins, as it captured the FAA championships game with a 7-1 win over top-seeded King School. It was the team’s second title in three years.

Described as a lock-down defender, Schneider led Hopkins in forced turnovers and takeaways, and also had two goals and four assists this past season.

In addition to being the team’s captain, he was the recipient of the Peter H. Newcomb Lacrosse Award (for Sportsmanship and Character) and Bill DeGennaro Award for the outstanding male athlete at Hopkins, where he was a three-sport varsity athlete.

He was named to the all-FAA team for the second straight year, and also to the all-Western New England Secondary School Lacrosse Association team. He also made the All-New England Team for the first time, and named to the New Haven Register All-Area Team.

Before playing for Hopkins lacrosse, Schneider had played in the Wilton youth programs in grades 4-8. But he grew tall early, with a gangly body, and his running wasn’t the most graceful, and he went through some growing pains.

“I had a really bad year in lacrosse in the eighth grade. I was really bad. I think that helped to make me really humble and work hard all spring,” he said. “I’m super competitive. That’s what kept me gong. I wasn’t good but I was really competitive.”

At the time, football was his main sport, having played in the Wilton youth program from the third grade through to the eighth grade. But since the school he was attending at the time, Greens Farms Academy, didn’t have a football program, he began to look for another school.

“What initially attracted me was the fact that Hopkins had football, and Greens Farms did not. Then I started learning more about it,” he said.

When he discovered that Hopkins was one of the most rigorous schools around, he made up his mind to go there — once he sold his parents on the idea, that is.

“I was aware of how challenging it would be. I really pushed the ball on that. I wanted something more academically. My parents were so supportive,” he said. “I realized I wanted the challenge and I had to take it, and it made all the difference for me.”

After playing varsity football his freshman year, he began to assert himself in the first lacrosse scrimmage the next spring with his new-found physical play.

“We had a scrimmage and I just starting hitting. They had to pull me out of the scrimmage. After the next scrimmage, the coach pulled me aside and asked me what number I wanted to wear,” he said. “That’s when I started to realize that maybe I could do this. It gave me more confidence in myself, that maybe I can play. It was contagious.”

After that, Schneider began to attend camps and play in the fall, and his game took off. He also added 50 pounds to his frame, and finally grew into his body.

A huge influence that freshman year was Jashon DeSenna, a senior defenseman at Hopkins who helped Schneider realize his potential as a player.

“He was my mentor. He really took me under his wing. He taught me everything and he encouraged me to play summer lacrosse,” said Schneider. “My game just went to a whole different level.”

Desenna finished out his career at Hopkins as an All-American in 2012, and went on to play Division III lacrosse for Muhlenberg College.

Schneider also left his mark on the football field, where he was a three-year starter for Hopkins, earning all-league honors as a junior and senior, and all-New England honors as a senior. He was a team captain this past season.

While recruited for football by the University of Chicago and Williams College, Schneider ended up choosing Dartmouth over those two schools, and Brown.

Schneider also played four years of basketball at Hopkins, although his exploits on the court weren’t as impressive as in football and lacrosse, he noted.

President of his class the last three years, he graduated from Hopkins this past spring with the highest academic honor: Cum Laude Society.

He looks forward to getting to Dartmouth in a few weeks, and plans to study history with a minor in archeology.

“I’ve always had a passion for history,” said Schneider, who is a member of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, a group of fellow history buffs the re-enacts Revolutionary War battles and camps. As his senior project this year, he created a board game centered around the Battle of Ridgefield.