Whenever someone describes Doug Shanahan they fittingly use one common word: intense.
He was always out to prove to the world that he was better than his older brother's Patrick and David, who both played sports at Sachem.
As if he didn't have them beat already with his laundry list of athletic accomplishments, Monday night's jersey retirement ceremony put the icing on the cake.
His No. 26 lacrosse uniform is now the fourth jersey to be retired in Sachem sports history behind Jeff Ruland (basketball, 43), Neal Heaton (baseball, 16) and John "Jumbo" Elliott (football, 76).
Shanahan watched from the sidelines wearing a green Pinecrest School Lacrosse jacket over a black Sachem polo shirt, the two high schools in his life blending together.
Presently, Shanahan is the head lacrosse coach and quarterback coach at Pinecrest in Boca Raton, Fl.
Many would have guessed he'd take his lacrosse and football smarts to the coaching level, having learned from a handful of legends from Sachem's Rick Mercurio and Fred Fusaro to Hofstra's Joe Gardi and John Danowski.
But long before Shanahan was called a coach and prior to his number being hoisted to the rafters in the gymnasium at North, he was just a normal rough and tough athlete throwing the Black & Gold uniform on as if it were the last time he'd wear it, every time.
"Dougie was a stallion," said Fusaro, whose football team was 9-1 with Shanahan as a starter in the fall of 1996. "He was a very high strung kid and very competitive. He was our guy."
That guy started on both sides of the ball, hurling passes as one of the program's most athletic quarterbacks and blocking the ball as a safety on defense.
He started as a safety his junior season when Sachem lost to Lawrence in the Long Island championship and broke his hand on the opening drive of the Arrows' playoff game against Lindenhurst that year.
The following season he was in the hospital with a 103-degree fever the night prior to the Suffolk County title game against Patchogue-Medford, a team the Arrows beat 14-12 in the regular season.
"He was just real intense," said Larry Falkman, who played football and lacrosse with Shanahan at Sachem and later played with him on the Chicago Machine and Philadelphia Barrage in the MLL. "The drive he has goes above and beyond. Playing with him made you want to play up to his level. He's always looking to be the best player on the field."
"We played football on the streets and in the playground," added Mark Carlson, who also played both sports with him in high school. "He was a great force in everything he did. You could tell he was destined to be at this point in his life."
In lacrosse he turned out not only to be the best player on the field more times than none, but he was also a standout on a national scope.
He remembers scoring a game-winning goal against Ward Melville as a junior, something he credits as putting himself on the map. He was part of Sachem's New York State tournament team in 1995 and was a leader his junior year when the Flaming Arrows went 18-0 and lost to Melville in the County final.
An All-American as a senior in 1997, Shanahan was recruited to play at Georgetown, Delaware, Hobart and Hofstra, where he settled in close to home as a two-sport athlete once again.
He was awarded the inaugural Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate lacrosse player and won the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award as the best Division I player in the country. If that wasn't enough, he was honored with the McLaughlin Award as the nation's best midfielder the same year. His No. 26 was retired at Hofstra last season as well. Beginning to see a pattern here?
Shanahan is a no-joke, hands on, aggressive athlete that made his mark with a blue-collar mentality he forged at Sachem.
"When you play with wise men you get wiser and Doug was certainly a wise man and he made everyone around him pick up their game," said Mercurio.
On the football field at Hofstra, Shanahan initially intended on playing quarterback, but he didn't see eye-to-eye with offensive coordinator Rob Spence, who has since served in the same position at Clemson and Syracuse. So it was on to the safety position once again. That was fine for Shanahan, who enjoyed a good challenge.
His fondest playing memory came in 2000 against Montana, who was ranked No. 1 in Division IAA at the time. He blocked the extra point on a point-after attempt when Hofstra was losing 9-7. A penalty was called on the play, Montana re-kicked and Shanahan blocked it again. Hofstra had a drive later in that fourth quarter, kicked a field goal and won, 10-9. He led Hofstra with seven interceptions in 2000 (had 15 for his career), the same year he was selected by The Sports Network and The Football Gazette to its first teams, and by The Associated Press to their third team.
The most strenuous, yet exciting, time of his athletic career came in 2002 when he tried out for the New York Jets and came very close to making the club. He was the last defensive back cut on the last day of training camp. The Jets drafted Jon McGraw out of Kansas State in the second round and had high-pick money invested in him. McGraw lasted until 2005 with the Jets and was traded to Kansas City for a seventh round pick in 2006.
Shanahan received a call from Indianapolis prior to the draft, which saw nine Pro Bowlers selected in the first round, including the former New York Giant Jeremy Shockey, but nothing ever came of it. So Shanahan signed with the Jets, who housed their practice facilities at Hofstra, which was no strange site for him to perform his best. He played in preseason games against the Giants, Baltimore and Pittsburgh and put forth a valiant effort.
"Just being out there running around like a chicken with their head cut off and performing at the highest stage was the best part," he said. "Everything you do is analyzed. I remember trying to relax my mind and think through the process of things I was trying to do. It was tough to swallow [getting cut]. It took so much to be where I was at."
His good fortune on the lacrosse field was only getting started. Selected first overall in the 2002 MLL Draft by the Bridgeport Barrage, he won a title with them in 2004 (they moved to Philadelphia by then) and played there until 2006. He had a small stint with the New York Saints of the National Lacrosse League and was MVP of the 2002 World Championships where Team USA won the gold medal.
The Chicago Machine selected him in the 2006 MLL Expansion Draft with the fourth overall pick and he was there until 2009 when he was picked up by the Long Island Lizards.
Dozens of former Sachem players and coaches came to support Shanahan Monday night and huddled near the side of the north end zone, chatting as they watched Sachem battle against Ward Melville. Even former legendary Ward Melville coach Joe Cuozzo stopped by to wish Shanahan well. They coach camp together in Florida every year with Mercurio and former Sachem standout Pat Perritt.
Shanny cheered and critiqued as the Arrows wallowed against a skilled Melville group. He pointed out flaws and perfections. He reminisced about his days in the Black & Gold. Uniquely, no one else will know what it feels like to wear No. 26. And no one should.
"It's an honor," he said. "A great privilege."
Many would say the same about watching him play for Sachem.