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 in 2004.
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.