As JD Colarusso prepares to play his first game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in three-plus years, the former UAlbany men’s lacrosse star isn’t shy about discussing what he dealt with during his final months as a Great Dane.
Back then? A few years ago, as he was helping to lead UAlbany on the greatest postseason run in program history, Colarusso didn’t know there was anything to discuss. He was always so tired and thirsty, but he didn’t think much of it.
“So it’s something I want to share, to be honest,” Colarusso said Wednesday during a phone interview with The Daily Gazette.
Colarusso will return to UAlbany as part of the Atlas of the Premier Lacrosse League, a touring professional league that has added two teams to grow to eight since it last visited Casey Stadium in 2019. Colarusso’s squad plays at 4:15 p.m. Saturday against the Waterdogs, a matchup that starts the second of three consecutive days of doubleheaders the PLL will bring to Casey Stadium this weekend.
Colarusso made his PLL debut earlier this year, and that June 5 game against the Archers — a club that features former teammate Connor Fields — served as the first official contest Colarusso played since he started in goal for the Great Danes during their program’s only appearance in the national semifinals back in 2018.
On the calendar, June 5 comes a day after a significant anniversary for Colarusso. It was on June 4, 2018 — just more than a week after the Great Danes’ dream 2018 season concluded — that Colarusso was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The Mayo Clinic describes Type 1 diabetes as “a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin,” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports approximately 1,600,000 people in the United States of America have Type 1 Diabetes.
Colarusso found out he had Type 1 diabetes during a multiple-day stay at a hospital. That trip started on a day that began for Colarusso when his mother discovered him sleeping in bed, and a variety of empty Gatorade and water bottles not far from him. Those empty bottles were left over from his attempts to quench a thirst he couldn’t satisfy, and had been drained following a night that Colarusso had spent gulping down water as he watched a movie with friends.
The peculiar sight worried Colarusso’s mother — and made her wonder since Colarusso’s sister had been diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes as a youngster. At home, the family was able to administer a test of his blood-glucose level . . . and the result showed in the 600s, well above the level of 140 that’s generally the desired upper limit.
Before Colarusso ended up in the hospital, though, he hadn’t felt well for quite some time.
“I lost 25 pounds during the last month or so of the season,” Colarusso said. “But I really had no clue; I didn’t know what that was from, and I didn’t really think anything of it. I just knew I was extremely tired all the time. That was the main thing — I was extremely tired. Every time I woke up, it was a real struggle.”
He also found himself drinking more water than ever before, and making constant trips to the bathroom. That didn’t necessarily worry him, though, especially since he was so focused on his final college lacrosse season. Colarusso grew up a fan of head coach Scott Marr’s Great Danes, and developed into the team’s starring goalie during the program’s best-ever season. While he battled constant fatigue during his final season, it rarely showed on the field where his play earned Colarusso the USILA Most Outstanding Goalkeeper award.
“But, progressively, [my health] got worse toward the end of the season,” Colarusso said. “And that Yale game, obviously, wasn’t my best.”
Even years later, Colarusso doesn’t want to spend much time drawing connections between his then-unknown condition and his play in the national semifinals against Yale. He doesn’t really need to do that, though, because the results speak for themselves. He was the nation’s top goalie that year, and he didn’t stop any of the first seven shots on goal he faced in a 20-11 loss against Yale. He was removed twice from action, and ended up making six saves and allowing 15 goals on a steamy afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts with few clouds, if any, in the sky.
“It was so hot — and I was wearing sweats,” recalled Colarusso, with a chuckle.
Less than two weeks later, Colarusso was leaving the hospital and learning how to manage his condition. “Every day is difficult,” he said, but he also views himself as “lucky” in that he started to contend with the ailment when he was more mature.
Now 25 years old and living in his native LaGrangeville in Dutchess County, Colarusso works as a marketing developing specialist for Versatex Building Products when he isn’t playing professional lacrosse or offering goalie lessons. After college, it took Colarusso a bit to get his chance to show he belonged as a professional lacrosse player, but he’s made the most of the opportunity he was given after Atlas goalie Jack Concannon was forced to miss time with an injury. Colarusso has stopped 49% of shots he’s faced this season, and has made double-digit saves in the three starts he’s made since Concannon’s injury.
“Obviously, it’s my first summer playing professionally, so it’s been a great experience. I’m playing against the best players in the world. Every player is so good. The talent is off the charts,” said Colarusso, whose first-place Atlas squad is 6-2 on the season. “It’s just been a great experience. Being on a team again is one of the best things for me.”
Heading back to UAlbany, Colarusso said, will be “really special.” He’s one of several former UAlbany stars playing in the league, and he said he cannot wait to see friends, former coaches, family members and Great Danes fans in the stands.
“This weekend,” Colarusso said, “is going to be great.”
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