Rochester Knighthawks rookie Taylor Jensen is now living the life of a professional athlete, but that’s just one aspect to the many in the transition player’s life.
Jensen’s a pro lacrosse player, a local college graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology, a two-time NCAA National Champion, and a girl dad. His daughter, Aisling, is four years old.
“She drew a little picture of me,” said Jensen. “I put it in my bag so I can pick it out a little easier with all the other Knighthawks bags when we travel. She’s always cheering me on. I got home (from Halifax) and she had all these posters that she made while I was gone. She drew a little Knighthawk so that was awesome. It’s been really cool.”
The 25-year-old out of New Westminster, British Columbia, cherishes family and this Saturday, he’ll get to see another member of the family tree up close and personal: his half-brother and Buffalo Bandits standout, Josh Byrne.
“We’re competing for mom’s love in this one,” he laughed. “We’ll see who wins, but I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m not really too worried about it. I watched him and played with him in the backyard growing up so I think I know all his plays and what’s going on in his head, so it should be a pretty good game.”
Jensen and Byrne share the same mother, making them half-brothers and not stepbrothers, though Jensen admits they’ve watched that movie together. He says they’ve matured since then (hopefully).
The pair are four years apart in age but have been close their whole lives.
“We only live about an hour away from each other now. We’re really close. He comes over to see his niece all the time.”
While Aisling may struggle with a conflict of interest between rooting for her dad or her uncle, Jensen seems fully committed to battling for the Knighthawks. He’ll hit if he needs to hit. If the game gets chippy, Jensen doesn’t plan on backing down.
Battles between Buffalo and Rochester are fair game for anything and the younger of the two brothers knows that. Blood has been shed plenty times over in previous chapters of this rivalry and Jensen is willing to do what it takes to stay in the lineup, even if it means drawing blood on an opponent who shares the same DNA.
“I don’t plan on talking to him until probably after the game. I hope I get in too because I don’t have a cemented spot in this lineup. I really hope I can get in this one. If I get a chance to throw a hit, I think I’d be more inclined to throw one on him.”
Those comments probably don’t do wonders for their mother, who Jensen said is happy to see the two playing in the NLL, but nervous to see them go up against one another.
Last Saturday was Jensen’s NLL debut after cracking the lineup for the first time in game six of the season in Halifax. Jensen and Byrne are brothers separated by just over an hour drive from Rochester to Buffalo, but they’re in two completely different spots when it comes to their careers.
“He’s a top guy in the NLL and I’m a rookie. I have nothing to lose.”
While Jensen was playing in his first game, Byrne was taking the floor for the 71st time, scoring a goal and seven points to guide Buffalo past Toronto last Saturday. Byrne is part of the defending NLL champion Bandits and has been since the 2018-19 season. He’s built a robust resume over his time in Buffalo, amassing 148 goals and 204 assists for a whopping 352 points. He led the Bandits to two NLL Finals appearances over a three-year span, finally hoisting the trophy this past spring.
Success is easy to appreciate, but often a challenge to duplicate. Jensen is aware of this. He thought there was a chance he’d be signed by Buffalo ahead of turning pro, but instead ended up staying in Rochester after finishing his run at RIT to join the Knighthawks.
“We don’t have the same last name, so most people don’t know we’re brothers, which is nice because I wanted to do everything on my own and not piggyback off his success.”
He’s not shy about being the younger brother of one of the elite point producers in the NLL. Jensen knows Byrne, and Byrne knows Jensen. In many ways, Byrne isn’t just his brother, but his hero, too.
“I look up to him and I idolize him. He was playing lacrosse and that made me want to play lacrosse, too.”
For now, though, the younger of the two needs to focus on carving out a path for himself.
“He was really good, and I was never great growing up, but watching him and playing with him in the backyard helped me get better and catch up to him, but I kind of want to do it on my own. I don’t run around telling everyone I’m his brother.”
The two plan to catch up following Saturday’s game at KeyBank Center, a game in which it feels the ‘Hawks desperately need to win to end this three-game hiccup. Before then, however, it will remain business between two opponents, not two brothers.
The love is there, but when people think of the young Rochester transition player, he doesn’t want them thinking ‘that’s Josh Byrne’s brother.’ He wants them to know that’s Taylor Jensen.