Cathedral High football player receives national recognition for excellence
Story and photos by David Martin
SPRINGFIELD – Evan Landers thanked God for giving him the ability to play football; his family, friends and teammates; and also the faculty and staff of Cathedral High School for their devotion to excellence in education.
The Cathedral High senior expressed his gratitude after being recognized as a finalist for the U.S. Army Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence at the school on Oct. 3. The award is given by the U.S. Army and Pro Football Hall of Fame and representatives from both organizations were present at the ceremony which was attended by more than 300 people. Landers also thanked them for choosing him to be a finalist. He said also was grateful to have the plaque presented to him by Cathedral alumnus, former NFL player and inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Nick Buoniconti
“I’ve been playing the game since I was in second grade, I love the game, he’s an alumnus, which just adds to the excitement, and he was a great player so I am just so happy to have him here,” said Landers.
The U.S. Army Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence is meant to honor the nation’s top junior and senior high school athletes who exemplify strengths and values similar to “army strong” soldiers.
Cathedral students were all present in the school’s gymnasium for the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Buoniconti told them that exceptional people take many forms. He used as an example the June 1, 2011 tornado that destroyed the Cathedral High School campus and how the administrators of the school took the steps to continue the educational excellence that he received 55 years ago.
Buoniconti said the Cathedral education will allow students to apply to colleges and universities around the country. He told them they should be proud of going to Cathedral and grateful to administrators for building a newer and better school.
Buoniconti said they were there “to honor an exceptional young man, Evan Landers, who is not only a center on the football team, and a track and field star, but also a 4.0 student.” Buoniconti said Landers has an opportunity, because of his academics and his community service with the district attorney’s office, to be a great representative for Cathedral High School.
Buoniconti humbly said he himself is not exceptional, just a man who works every day as hard as he can.
“Commitment to excellence means getting up every single day, being proactive and working hard. Evan, you are an exceptional person, I am so proud to be here for you and I know that you are army strong,” said Buoniconti.
A reception took place after the ceremony in the school’s library. Gary Landers, a Cathedral alumnus from the class of 1980, said he is very proud of his son, Evan. He said his son exemplifies physical and mental strength, and also strength of character, because he is very dedicated, has a great sense of community and is devoted to his school and his teammates.
Gary Landers said the devotion of the coaches in the Cathedral athletic program and their training helps develop discipline and teamwork that he hopes will carry Evan through the rest of his life. He said the athletic program has the spirit that it is “not just about the individual it is about the team coming together for a common goal.”
“We are proud of him and we are glad that it shows that hard work and dedication can be recognized. Evan is hoping that he can come back, like Mr. Buoniconti, and contribute to the school and be an example to others,” said Gary.
Evan said it was a great honor to receive recognition from the U.S. Army because they keep everyone safe.
Representatives of the U.S. Army and Pro Football Hall of Fame will continue traveling the country presenting student finalists with plaques and give the final award on Jan. 20, 2014.
Watch for more on this story on an upcoming edition of the weekly newsmagazine program “Real to Reel,” broadcast Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS