After a long road full of championship glory, disappointment, injury struggles and a pandemic-shortened NCAA season, Tye Kurtz is getting his due.
The 24-year-old Puslinch native signed a two-year contract with the Albany FireWolves of the National Lacrosse League this week.
Albany drafted Kurtz in the first round, 17th overall, in the 2022 NLL draft.
"I know it's cliche to say it's a childhood dream, but it really is," he said.
It bookends an eventful year for Kurtz, who wrapped up his senior season in Delaware with a Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) championship this past spring.
Sure, the Blue Hens lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Division 1 national championship tournament, ending Kurtz's collegiate career in the process.
But he leaves as the school's all-time leader in goals (180) and points (282). This includes a team-leading 58 goals and 88 points in his final year.
For his efforts, the Bishop Macdonell graduate was named the CAA offensive player of the year, a first team all-CAA and a third team All-American.
"I came into my last year knowing that this is it," Kurtz said. "I tried to play every season the same way, just like every game, you never know when it's going to end, especially going through COVID early in my career, you never really knew."
The lesson was learned tenfold in having to deal with injuries, which limited him during his true senior season in 2022 and was forced to miss the fall season before his final year at Delaware.
"That kind of put it all in perspective for me, and realize how quick it can be taken away," he said. "I just did whatever I could every day from that point on just to try to live like you never know."
Kurtz is spending his summer as a rookie with the Premier Lacrosse League's Chaos Lacrosse Club. The PLL is a tour-based field lacrosse league in the United States.
He has two goals in two games, after missing Chaos' first three games as work visa issues were ironed out.
He also played five games for Cobourg in Major Series Lacrosse in 2021.
Kurtz admits the wider space provided in field lacrosse was an adjustment after growing up playing box lacrosse, including with the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves (OJALL).
But at the end of the day, he said it's just lacrosse.
And now, he's gearing up for his first training camp at the sport's highest level.
It's a tough step, but one Kurtz is happy to take.
"I've always lived (by the saying) 'getting there is the easy thing, staying there is the hard thing,'" he said. "Now that I've done it, I'm just super excited to get started and do whatever I can to help the team."
But is he prepared to meet the expectations that naturally come with being a first round draft pick?
"I expect a lot out of myself, and I'm expecting myself to thrive in this environment," Kurtz said.
"The coaches, I believe, have a lot of faith in me. In the conversations that we've had, I think they have a lot of trust in me, and understand what I can do to bring value to the team.
"At the end of the day, I just want to help win games. And whatever is required of me that day is what I'll do."