Guy Van Arsdale remembers Jake Herman as just an average athlete, but one who used his head and heart to become a strong player and a true leader for the lacrosse team at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1990s.
"He had a game-playing IQ that was off the charts," said Van Arsdale, who coached Herman at RIT in New York and is now coach at Jacksonville University in Florida. "He had the ability to motivate his teammates through words and action. He had a motor that wouldn't quit. He only knew how to play at one speed, and that was all-out."
Mountain Vista High School students arrived on campus Jan. 19 to learn that Herman, a science teacher and the boys lacrosse coach at the Highlands Ranch school, had died. The world lost, as Van Arsdale called him, an "amazing man."
No details of Herman's passing were available from Mountain Vista or the Douglas County School District.
The morning of Jan. 20, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said there is an active investigation into Herman's death and that the cause had not been determined. Foul play is not suspected, she said.
Herman, who leaves behind a wife and two young children, presented what some might consider a contradiction: He was a heavily tattooed athlete who had a doctorate in microbiology.
"He's a guy who followed his passion," said Van Arsdale, who believes Herman could have been making "high six figures, at least" doing scientific research. "His passion was coaching and teaching kids. He wanted to impact kids, and god bless him, he sure did."
Twitter and Facebook were full of messages that confirm that statement.
"All the boys on the team, parents, staff, and students are in shock," a woman wrote on Facebook. "He was a role model to many students and certainly loved the sport of lacrosse."
One of Herman's players said on Twitter, "To my second dad, the best coach ever, and the greatest man in the world, you will be dearly missed."
Herman was a science teacher at Mountain Vista for the past three years. He was an assistant lacrosse coach at Regis Jesuit for six years and was the Golden Eagles' head coach for the past two seasons.
Mountain Vista compiled a 30-5-0 record under Herman's guidance and reached the state quarterfinals and semifinals during his tenure.
"It is a sad day for the Colorado lacrosse community," Castle View coach Jose Trujillo said. "We lost a tremendous competitor, a loyal friend and an amazing role model. Jake was passionate about everything and will be missed greatly."
In a letter to the Mountain Vista Community sharing the news of Herman's death Jan. 19, Principal Mike Weaver said the school district's crisis team was "working with school counselors and mental health professionals to ensure that both our students and staff have the support they need."
"It is important for us to remember to lean on each other and provide help as needed," Weaver wrote.
Van Arsdale said he and Herman - who was a co-captain as a senior on the 1999 RIT team - kept in touch over the years, seeing each other most recently last summer and talking on the phone in the fall.
"I've been coaching for over 30 years," Van Arsdale said. "In that entire time, I don't know if I've ever met, or ever will meet, a more inspiring and unique human being than Jake Herman."