The early athletic days of 2014 NC
Hall of Fame inductee William Hesmer were spent on the playing
fields of his native Wilson County and would lead to a sparkling
career at Hunt High School (1997-2000). He was all-conference
in basketball, football and soccer, and even got in a couple
of years of baseball. For all of his efforts, he would be
named his area’s Athlete of the Decade by the Wilson
Times in 2010, an honor that he deeply cherishes.
So it was not completely surprising that, though an All-State
soccer midfielder for coach Brent Walston as a junior, Hesmer
could switch to goalkeeping his senior year and not only
repeat the state honor, but also make All-South. This would
become a career-changing move, as he would lead the Charlotte
Soccer Club to the 2000 Region III title (they would finish
third nationally). Participation in ODP, the NC State Team
and the Adidas Elite Soccer Program would help insure that
colleges would come calling, and in the fall of 2000 he
set off for Wake Forest University.
Despite an earlier injury, his freshman campaign would prove
rewarding. Becoming a starter late in the season, William
ended up on the All-ACC Tournament team by virtue of allowing
only 3 goals in 240 minutes and stopping three penalty kicks
in one overtime game. That was a sign of bigger things to
come, as he was named a NSCAA second team All-American as
a junior and a first team choice as a senior. Just as significantly,
he would be a Verizon Academic All-American and be named
one of three Wake Forest athletes to be given the prestigious
Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate scholarship by the ACC
Hesmer was drafted 17th overall in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft
by the Kansas City Wizards, but found playing time hard
to gain because of established veterans in front of him.
He did make a few appearances in 2006, but in that same
year, after the Expansion Draft, he ended up with Toronto
FC, who quickly dealt him to the Columbus Crew. This would
prove to be fortuitous for both player and team.
The Columbus years (2006-2012) were highlighted by a MLS
Cup championship in 2008, but things first turned around
for Hesmer the year before when he established himself with
20 starts. The magical ’08 year, which started with
his stopping penalty kicks in his first two matches, would
see the Crew entering the playoffs as the top-seeded team.
They would not disappoint, as they began by defeating Kansas
City (his former team) in a replay and then went on to beat
Chicago Fire. In the MLS Cup final, the Crew prevailed over
the New York Red Bulls 3-1. Hesmer’s sheet would read
3 GA and one shutout in 360 minutes of the highest level
he would reach.
His remaining time in professional soccer would be marked
by injury, but his career sheet is impressive. He appeared
in 133 games overall, along with seeing action in 6 CONCACAF
League games. For Columbus, Hesmer remains the all-time
shutout leader with 41 and also holds the distinction of
being the second goalkeeper in MLS history to score a goal
(2010 – tying a game in stoppage time, no less). He
would retire in February of 2013 after a fine and eventful
playing career. He now lives in Raleigh with his wife Tacey
and works for Raymond James Financial.
A December 2010 article in the Raleigh News and Observer
details how William’s mother Janet, director of Wilson’s
Wesley Shelter for the homeless and domestic abused, asked
him to help raise funds by putting on a soccer clinic. In
two years, Hesmer and others, working with a program called
Playing For Peace, raised $40,000.
Full circle William Hesmer has come – from Wilson
and back – and now he moves to the North Carolina
Soccer Hall of Fame, 2014. A job quite well done.