Rutgers attackman Jules Henningburg wears the No. 7 jersey in honor of man that he’s never met.

Henningburg posted a quote from the man in his bathroom, so that he lays eyes on it every day. “You only lose when you allow yourself to be defeated.”

Henningburg, who grew up in Maplewood, N.J., wasn’t the only player to grow up idolizing the No. 7 and the legacy of Bobby Bianchi. Brendan Francis also wore No. 7 in honor of Bianchi at Naval Academy Prepatory School, before his time playing for the Midshipmen.

A generation removed from Bianchi, children who grew up in Maplewood and played at Columbia High School could not escape the influence of the man once named the New Jersey Player of the Century by the Star-Ledger newspaper.

“My dad always talked about the standard with Bobby and if I wanted to be that guy,” Henningburg said. “When I got to Rutgers, I always wore No. 4 in high school, but in my head, I thought it would be a special thing where I could wear No. 7 and honor the tradition that was left behind by him. I always wanted to be that guy. When I was growing up and hearing those stories, I was chasing that dream that Bobby left behind.”

That dream, passed along from Bianchi’s old teammates like Gus Henningburg (Jules’ father), continues today. He left a mark on every person he came across.

“Bobby was beyond a model person,” Gus Henningburg said. “I love that guy unconditionally to this day. I am honored to have known him. I am humbled by his existence.”

Bianchi was one of four brothers who served as a team captain at Maplewood -- brothers Jimmy, Bobby and Richie for lacrosse and Kevin, for wrestling.

Tragedy struck their family twice. Bobby died in a helicopter crash in the Philippines in 1987 while serving in the Navy. Sixteen years later, Kevin, who followed his older brothers to the Naval Academy, died in a helicopter crash in Sicily. They're gone, but their impact lives on. Former teammates Jack Francis (Brendan's father) and Jay Harkey donated the money to honor their late teammate, Bobby, with a brick paver at US Lacrosse headquarters.

“You might have a lot of good guys on those bricks, but none of them has the character of Bobby Bianchi,” said Francis, whose son wanted to be a pilot after hearing about Bianchi. “The name lives on, and it’s because of the impact that he had on everybody. Why does everyone want their kid to wear No. 7? You don’t just do that because he was a lacrosse player, he was good and he died. That’s not why you do that. You convince your kid to wear No. 7 because there is top-quality character there.”

It’s a testament to Bianchi, who grew up in Maplewood in the early 1970s, where lacrosse was not a popular. In fact, it wasn’t offered as an official high school sport until 1974, just a couple years before he came to Columbia High School. When he got there, he made his impression right away. Although he wasn’t the most skilled, he got the job done, playing alongside his brother Jimmy for two seasons. He was small, at 140 pounds, but he became an All-State attackman by his sophomore year.

“He was a terrific player,” Jim Bianchi said. “A scrappy, undersized guy. We had two other guys that were first team All-State on that team, and it felt like, it didn’t matter if he was physically overmatched, he was going to find a way to the ball.”

Bobby Bianchi quickly became a leader for the Columbia High School team, eventually leading it to a 17-0 record and a state championship. He scored 104 goals that season, and played in the second half in just five games. He had a way of commanding the attention of his teammates, whether it was on the field or off of it.

“He had quiet, unassuming leadership,” said Bob Curcio, his former high school coach. “He always knew how good he was, but it was never a boastful thing. He opened his mouth when he had to. He led by his actions. He worked harder than anybody.”

“He was not a get-in-your-face kind of guy, but a guy that people knew,” teammate John Butkus said. “He was the leader and the alpha without being over the top about it. He was a class act all the way.”

A three-sport athlete (football and basketball, as well), Bianchi made most of his friends through sports. But he wasn’t afraid to be different. He was an awful singer, but he wasn’t scared to belt out Bruce Springsteen hits like “Thunder Road” while hanging out with Gus Heningburg. Bianchi showed up to school in plaid pants and shorts, along with a pair of wallabees. Francis and others questioned his fashion choices.

“‘Are you crazy?’” Bianchi would answer. “‘These are good pants, a good shirt and some good shoes.’”

With his leadership, it seemed like the right choice when he decided to follow his brother Jimmy to Navy to play lacrosse. There, he started alongside his brother for a year, one in which the Bianchis were named one after another for starting lineups. He wasn’t the top player on his Navy teams but he was named captain — an honor that epitomizes his leadership and work ethic.

After his time in Annapolis, Bianchi completed flight school and was stationed in Guam in 1986. He became a flight commander in 1987, the year his HH-46 Helicopter crashed near the Subic Bay Naval Air Station on the Bucao River. It was a life cut vastly short, but one that’s still being remember 30 years later. Safe to say Bob Bianchi won’t be forgotten any time soon.

“Maplewood in general, and the New Jersey lacrosse world in general, was devastated by the loss,” Curcio said. “But I speak for everybody when I say we will gladly accept that devastation because not to have known him would have been a bigger loss.”

Here are a few more stories that speak to the life of Bob Bianchi:

Gus Heningburg

“I never had a bad moment with him. All we did was play ball, hang out with kids and sing Springsteen. Don’t let Thunder Road come on, because we’re getting into it. That dude couldn’t sing for his life, but you would think “10th Avenue Freeze Out” and “Thunder Road” were him and not Bruce. Bruce was just covering him.”

Jim Bianchi

“A freshman was not having his best game and for whatever reason they decided to sub for him. They put Bob in and within a minute, he scored a goal that kick-started a comeback victory over West Point."

Bob Curcio

“As a sophomore [in high school], he was our leading scorer on a pretty good team. We had a very close game and we’re trailing by two goals with four minutes left. I called timeout. We had gone into this game overconfident. This team played one of its best games. Four minutes left we call timeout to decide what we’re going to do with the ball. The huddle breaks and he walks over to me and says ‘Coach, don’t get mad at what I’m going to tell you. If I get the ball, I’m going to the goal. I can beat this kid.’” He scores the two tying goals to send the game to overtime and gets the assist on the winning goal.”

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