College sports run in Shaun Herock’s family. His father, Shaun, played football at the University of Richmond, and his mother, Mia, played field hockey at the same school. Ken Herock, Shaun’s grandfather, played football at West Virginia and went on to play tight end for three NFL teams.
It was far from a guarantee, however, that the legacy would continue when Shaun headed off to the United States Naval Academy after graduating from North Forsyth High School in 2017. He was going to try out for the lacrosse team, but there were multiple factors against him, like his relative lack of experience with the sport and the Division I level at which Navy plays.
“I didn’t think they’d have room for a guy like me,” Herock said.
But he played well with the other incoming freshmen during the summer, and then he played well with the rest of the team during the fall, and in mid-October, Herock found out that he made the team, where he’ll play midfield and faceoff specialist.
“I was speechless, to say the least,” he said.
The Herock family didn’t have experience with lacrosse before Shaun and his brothers came along, and he was actually the last in his family to pick the sport up. The family lived in Wisconsin before moving down to Forsyth County, and lacrosse wasn’t available for Shaun there. His two younger brothers started playing the sport when they moved to Georgia, but Shaun initially stuck with baseball, playing on North’s freshman team.
Herock got burned out with that sport, though, and looked to the fast pace of lacrosse, which he had seen his brothers playing. He was also a standout football player at North, earning All-County second team honors as a linebacker, but saw that his physical tools fit better for lacrosse.
“For football, being shorter, being shorter and smaller on the weight side limits me, but (with) lacrosse, I can make up for it with speed and everything,” Herock said.
Herock was named second team All-County as a faceoff specialist his senior year, and he had offers to play in college at New Jersey Institute of Technology and North Greenville University. He couldn’t turn down the opportunity to study at USNA, though, even without the guarantee to play a varsity sport.
“My husband and I were both kind of on the same page with our sports, where we wanted them to play sports, but (weren’t) thinking they were going to get a scholarship,” Mia Herock said. “That wasn't our priority. Academics have always come first.”
Shaun Herock was going to play a sport anyways – it’s mandatory to do so at USNA – so the club lacrosse team was the backup plan. And while making the varsity team was a shock for the whole family, Mia Herock knew her son had the qualities to do it.
“Part of his personality is someone tells him he can’t do something, he’s going to do anything he can to prove you wrong,” Mia Herock said. “He’s got that drive. That’s just him.”
Navy will scrimmage against Richmond this spring, and the Herocks plan to head north for that game. The Midshipmen also play Jacksonville, a manageable drive from Forsyth County, and the family is planning to go to that game, too.
The surprise of being in this position still hasn’t quite worn off. Shaun recently asked his mother if she expected him to be playing lacrosse, a sport he started just three years ago, at the Division I level. Even today, Mia Herock can’t that say she did.
“I think none of us ever expected that when he started,” she said. “We were just like, it's fun to watch, it's fun for him to play, he's doing well, but by no means did anyone anticipate that.”