Eden Prairie boys’ lacrosse coach Ryan Ward received a text last weekend from someone who saw Eagles captain Jake Woodring practicing on a field. Alone. For a good hour. On an off day.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Ward said. “Jake’s work ethic is what separates him.”

The high-scoring midfielder’s ability to stand out on an undefeated Eagles team ripe with talent led to his selection as the inaugural Star Tribune boys’ lacrosse Metro Player of the Year.

Woodring, who also earned Mr. Lacrosse honors, leads the Eagles (15-0) as they seek their first state tournament championship this week. Though one of five teammates named All-America by the state high school coaches association, Woodring’s intangibles such as work ethic and leadership are without peer.

“We like to say we’re bigger than one player,” Ward said. “That said, Jake is one huge piece of our puzzle. When you talk about Eden Prairie lacrosse, he’s the guy you think of.”

Woodring, who has scored 35 goals this season, committed to Denver University. Playing for the Pioneers will take him back to his roots in the sport.

Born in Minnesota, Woodring moved six months later to Highlands Ranch, a Denver suburb where he lived for 10 years. As a third-grader, his interest in football led to his introduction to lacrosse.

“They actually took my entire third-grade football team and turned us into a lacrosse team the next spring,” Woodring said. “We had no idea what we were doing. I remember being so frustrated that I couldn’t learn how to cradle.”

He learned from a book his parents got from the library. Jake’s father, Jack, would later coach some of his youth teams after learning the sport through similar grass roots methods. As a fifth-grader, Woodring fused his knowledge and athletic ability to great results. Though a member of the B team, Woodring pushed himself and played with seventh- and eighth-graders the next season.

Woodring, who grew up as a offensive lineman in football, topped out around 5-9 and 175 pounds and was converted to a running back at Eden Prairie. He played important roles on two Eagles state championship teams but knew his athletic future included a stick in his hands.

Woodring’s speed and toughness, which Ward calls Division I-caliber, will be needed to help the Eagles finally take first at state after four runner-up finishes.

“It’s been surreal,” Woodring said of the season. “Everything has been going so well up to this point. But we’re trying to not get complacent. We don’t want to be that undefeated team that loses in the playoffs.”