Tyrell Hamer-Jackson is a tugboat deckhand moonlighting as the Vancouver Warriors’ faceoff man.
Sandpaper gigs don’t come much grittier — and the 24-year-old Kamloopsian is lavishing in elbow grease.
Or at least he was until the pandemic shut down the National Lacrosse League season.
“Buddy, it’s tough,” said Hamer-Jackson, a Kamloops Minor Lacrosse Association product.
“I’ve wanted this forever. It’s a dream come true. I grew up watching these guys and now I’m playing against them. You’re facing off against them and they don’t like you. It’s kind of good. I like it.”
Hamer-Jackson, a faceoff specialist who was passed over in the 2016 NLL Entry Draft and cut from multiple Warriors’ training camps, took a year off from the game in 2019 and contemplated not returning.
He decided to give it another shot. He worked his tail off to lose about 40 pounds and signed to play for the senior A New Westminster Salmonbellies during the 2020 Western Lacrosse Association campaign.
Then his phone rang.
Warriors’ faceoff man Bob Snider suffered a knee injury during a game against visiting San Diego on Feb. 22 and Vancouver general manager Dan Richardson was calling.
“They flew in a guy from Orangeville and had a couple other guys go against me in practice,” Hamer-Jackson said. “I ended beating him out and all the other guys and they signed me. It’s amazing. I’ve wanted it forever.”
The rookie contract, announced on Feb. 28, is a one-year deal worth US$11,000. Hamer-Jackson makes far more during trips across the Georgia Straight on tugboats.
His trial by fire in the NLL began against visiting Georgia on Feb. 29 in front of 8,250 fans at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver, drawing against Jordan MacIntosh, the Swarm captain and nine-year veteran. MacIntosh finished 15-for-22 in faceoffs. Hamer-Jackson was 9-for-24. Georgia doubled Vancouver 14-7.
The Kamloops product’s second game, against hometown Saskatchewan on March 7 in Saskatoon, pitted him against Jeremy Thompson in front of 11,632 fans. Hamer-Jackson, a 5-foot-6, 190-pound defender, upped his winning percentage, finishing 7-for-19. Saskatchewan won 17-7.
“Getting the cadence down for when the ref blows the whistle, it’s different in this league,” said Hamer-Jackson, whose Warriors entered the pandemic pause with a record of 4-9, leaving them last in the West Division.
“You’ve got to watch the ref. You don’t watch the ball. You watch his lips to see when he’s going to blow the whistle and you time it that way.
“All they [the Warriors] wanted from me is 35 to 40 per cent. I’m not happy with that. I want more than that. I’ve got to get more reps and I’ll be right up there with those other guys.”
The rookie, desperate to prove he belongs, may have to wait until the 2021 campaign to make his mark if the pandemic wipes out the remainder of this season, which seems unlikely to resume.
Snider, 34, incurred a serious knee injury, an unfortunate turn for the veteran that may help Hamer-Jackson’s chances of landing a contract for 2021.
“I’m still ready, I’m still on their team, I’m still their guy and I’m just going to keep working harder,” Hamer-Jackson said. “I’m more ready than I’ve ever been in my life.”