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11/22/2012 - 12:20pm

By Carly Szydlowski
Since joining the Rochester Knighthawks in 2009 Irondequoit native Joe Walters has been a consistent player, but late in the 2012 season Walters proved he has the ability to break out and become a star forward in the National Lacrosse League.

During the Knighthawks’ playoff push to win the 2012 NLL World Championship, Walters had a stand-out performance and going into the final game he led the team in playoff points. In May 2012, the Rochester Knighthawks proudly ran out onto the turf at The Blue Cross Arena in front of 9,227 fans and Walters played a major role in the come-from-behind victory.

Walters commented on this stating, “I really wasn't thinking about my personal points. I thought I was contributing in a positive way down the stretch, and I was just focused on playing my role in the championship game to help our team earn our third championship.”

Walters was ready to take on the Edmonton Rush with his teammates and get the Cup in their possession and they did just that.  The Knighthawks defeated the Rush 9-6 in the NLL Finals to clinch the NLL World Championship title. Walters notched three assists and ended up with 13 total playoff points, which tied for second on the team.

Walters entered his fourth season with the 2012 Knighthawks known as a player who was highly active in the Rochester community, but not especially known for his skills on the turf. However, that may all be different entering the 2013 season after his talent exploded in the Knighthawks 2012 Championship run.

After winning the NLL Champion’s Cup and realizing his potential, Walters wanted to do everything he could to take advantage of his talent and carry it over into the 2013 NLL season. So, when he once again got the chance to play for the Brampton Excelsiors of Major Series Lacrosse during the summer of 2012 he took it. The Excelsiors are coached by Knighthawks Head Coach Mike Hasen and Assistant Coach Pat O’Toole and their roster features fellow Knighthawks teammates Dylan Evans, Kirk and Tyler Burton.

Walters was on the team in 2011 as well and felt as though playing for the Excelsiors was the best way to keep his indoor skills up to par. Walters thinks this was the best decision he has made for his NLL career stating.

“By playing with the Brampton Excelsiors, I had a new sense of confidence playing indoor lacrosse, like I do playing field,” he said. “When I got in the lineup I just focused on doing things right and playing my role. It just seemed as if everything was starting to click for our team, and we went on a great run to win the championship.”

With the Excelsiors, Walters focused on fine tuning his skills and getting his box lacrosse game where it needed to be in order to truly play at his best at the professional level. Walters has also played for the Hamilton Nationals of the Major Lacrosse League, which is field lacrosse and a game Walters is much more familiar with. This is one of the reasons he was not a stand-out player in box lacrosse until late into the fourth season of his professional NLL career.

Field lacrosse is the game Walters grew up playing and the game he was used to, so the transition to box lacrosse and the NLL was not easy. Now that Walters has had more experience with the box lacrosse game, playing with the Brampton Excelsiors under Coach Hasen, he is feeling confident going into the 2013 season with the Rochester Knighthawks. Walters is ready to contribute even more to his team and defend their World Championship title.

Walters commented on his challenges with the indoor game and his experience with the Excelsiors stating, “It's been one of the most challenging aspects of my lacrosse career. I've always been a good field player, but early on in my indoor career with the Knighthawks, I lost sight as to why and how I excelled as a field player. It took hard work and endless hours of practice. The same goes for indoor lacrosse, it's like learning a new sport, even though it is lacrosse, it's a completely different style and brand of the sport. Two summers ago I made the commitment to play in the Senior ‘A’ Major Series Lacrosse League in Canada with Brampton, as it was the best way to gain experience and practice. It was the best decision and sacrifice I have made in my lacrosse career and it put the sport of indoor lacrosse into perspective for me.”

With his experience and dedication to the game, this may be Walters’ year to shine. He is entering his fifth season as a professional box lacrosse player in the National Lacrosse League and Walters may be in his prime. The Knighthawks and the community all wish for the best for Walters because he truly is dedicated not only to the game, but to the fans and the city. Walters has great expectations for the upcoming 2013 Knighthawks season.

“As a team, anything short of defending our NLL championship is a disappointing season. We will return with most of our team from 2012 and add a few guys that will play big roles, so I am extremely excited for the upcoming season. Each team in the league is strong and anyone can beat anyone on any given night, so it is important for us to stay focused on playing well one game at a time,” he said. “Personally, I just want to do whatever I can to help the team. I am ready to build on last season and continue to improve my game. I have built good chemistry with Johnny Powless, so I hope to help him reach his fullest potential. My goal this season is to become a better goal scorer.”

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