Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/29/18
By Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
Lehigh men’s lacrosse senior John Mehok (Bishop Shanahan, Team ManUp) has become all too familiar with the medical field after suffering season-ending injuries as both a sophomore and junior.
You would think he’d want to stay as far away from doctors as possible, but Mehok’s post-graduate aspirations actually include the medical field.
“I’m looking to get into medical device sales,” he said. “You go around to hospitals or different accounts and sell whatever devices the company is selling to different surgeons. Everything is based on the doctors’ preferences of what they like to use in certain surgeries, like shoulder surgeries or ACL surgeries.”
Mehok’s first injury happened as a sophomore in 2016. He was gaining playing time, and confidence. Just a few days after he scored a goal at Princeton, his third straight game with a point, his season abruptly came to an end.
“I broke my thumb in practice,” said Mehok. “That was devastating. I had never been injured before. I had never broken a bone… nothing. That was tough, knowing it was the end of my season.”
Going into his junior campaign, Mehok felt like in many ways, he was starting from square one.
“I couldn’t really do much with my thumb,” he said. “I could obviously run, but needed to get my strength back up.”
Mehok began his junior season much like he finished his sophomore campaign, by producing. He had at least one point in five of his first seven games, but injury struck again.
“I had a stress fracture in my femur, which the doctors said is very uncommon,” he said. “It developed over time. I just had pain in my quad for a while. We thought it was muscular, but my MRI came back and I had the worst-grade stress fracture in my quad.
“It was devastating. I was playing at the time, we were playing well as a team and I only had two seasons left. For that to be taken from me was really hard.
When the season finished, Mehok still had to deal with the injury.
“My injury didn’t just go away,” he said. “It was something that went throughout the summer and this past fall.”
It was hard for Mehok, but he handled his situation as well as he possibly could. It’s easy to focus internally during hardship, but he did his best to focus on helping his teammates however he could.
“Johnny is a tough kid, both physically and mentally,” said second-year captain Ian Strain. “When the injury hit, Johnny did a great job of looking outward and helping those around him. Emotionally, all I had to do was remind him how much we value his opinion as a scorer and offensive player, then point him in the direction of a player who could use advice. John worked tirelessly with the offense to be another positive voice from the sidelines.”
Ten games into his senior season, Mehok has been able to use more than his voice. He has started every game in the midfield and currently stands fourth on the team with 14 points (nine goals, five assists). If there was any doubt about Mehok’s health or abilities, it went away on Mar. 3 vs. Colgate when he posted four goals and one assist, leading the Mountain Hawks to a big 10-7 win over the Raiders.
“When Johnny finally got back on the field, I remember how frustrated he was with himself because he wasn’t immediately scoring goals as he usually did,” said Strain. “He is so competitive that he was able to grind away until he was back to his old self. He is so pumped up to be on the field again. Now, he brings that voice he developed while injured, which makes our entire team better.”
Everything in Mehok’s past has helped make him the player, and person, he is today, from a freshman season that saw him get into just one game, to his season-ending injuries and everything in between. Every experience has given him the tools – and perspective – to thrive.
“My freshman season was when I learned the most and probably developed the most as a player,” said Mehok. “Going against defensemen like Casey Eidenshink, Lukas Mikelinich and Tripp Telesco every single day in practice, they forced you to be the best version of yourself.”
Mehok has developed into an important player, and leader, for the 2018 Mountain Hawks. No matter what happens on the field, one of his goals is to cherish every single day.
“I’m thankful to be able to go out there with my teammates again, finally be healthy and feel confident in my abilities,” said Mehok. “I feel a lot of joy to be playing lacrosse again. It was close to a year since I had played an actual game.
“I learned to never take anything for granted.”
Over his final few weeks as a collegiate athlete, Mehok hopes to avoid the doctors, but he already has his eyes set on the operating room after graduation.
“My dad works in medical sales and I’ve interned with him the past couple summers,” said Mehok, a marketing major. “I followed him around in the operating room setting. I was in the operating room a lot this summer watching surgeries.”
Just being in the medical setting was a unique experience for Johnny, considering his personal experiences on the playing field. It affirmed his desire to follow in his father’s footsteps for a career.
“It’s always nice to help people and the health care industry in general is never really going away,” said Mehok. “It’s not like there will ever be less injuries; health care is something that’s always there.”
For now, Mehok is focused on helping the Mountain Hawks in their quest for a Patriot League Championship. Named an assistant captain this season, Mehok brings important perspective for younger players.
“I’ll say this, and I didn’t really think it was true until I became a senior, but time flies,” said Mehok. “Between the good days and the bad days, just enjoy them because one day, you’re going to be in my shoes looking back and wishing you could go back to freshman year.”
“It’s been fun and rewarding for everyone to watch Johnny enjoy such a strong senior season,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “He certainly appreciates every day a little more since he knows what it feels like to have it taken away.”
For as challenging it can be in the moment, Mehok will miss the daily commitment the most. The opportunity to be alongside his teammates on the field was taken from him not once, but twice, so his resiliency has been on full display.
“Johnny has had many reasons to be discouraged and lose faith, but he’s just continued to work and grind through all of the injuries and all of the challenges that come with being a Division I student-athlete,” said Cassese.
“Looking back, the daily grind can be a lot, but I know I’m going to miss it,” said Mehok. “Just being with a great group of guys, the ones older than me and the ones younger than me, is what I’ll remember most. I will always cherish those friendships and that brotherhood.
“Being together with the guys, it really makes you appreciate every day.”