Buoniconti, Cathedral honor Landers for excellence

Oct. 10, 2013
Cathedral High School senior Evan Landers addresses his classmates as Panther alum and Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, right, listens at a ceremony honoring Landers as a finalist for the U.S. Army - Pro Football Hall of Fame Excellence Award.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
By Chris Maza


WILBRAHAM – As Cathedral High School alum and Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti spoke of current Panther Evan Landers, one word carried so much weight – exceptional.

On Oct. 3, Buoniconti was on hand in the gymnasium at Cathedral’s temporary home at the old Memorial School to present Landers with a plaque recognizing him as one of 10 finalists nationwide for the US Army - Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence.

The Award for Excellence is given to one high school football player who exhibits excellence not only on the gridiron, but also in the classroom and the community.

Buoniconti did not use the term lightly, first utilizing it to describe active members of the military and then his own son, who turned the tragedy of becoming paralyzed while playing football into a success in helping raise millions of dollars for spinal cord injury research.

“We’re here today to honor another hero. He’s exceptional,” Buoniconti said. “He has the opportunity because of his academics and his community service. He is really going to be a great representative of Cathedral High School and he will pave the way for many, many other young students to be able to follow in his footsteps so they too can be exceptional.”

Landers, an East Longmeadow resident, explained that he first heard about the program, in its second year, from his guidance counselor Patricia Gregory, who said there was no better fit for the award.

“We were asked to choose someone from the football team who was a scholar athlete, but it went beyond that because the army was part of this and wanted someone who met their standards as well – someone who would be disciplined and conscientious and fit the role they play in our country,” Gregory said. “Evan came to mind immediately because he is so committed to everything that he does and is a very positive person. He never looks for fanfare and kind of actually steps back from the limelight … He just fit every piece of the criteria they were looking for.”

Landers, a senior, has carried a 4.0 grade point average throughout his time at Cathedral and has displayed dedication to service in addition to his athletic successes in football and track and field. He is a member of the National Honors Society and the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office’s Youth Advisory Board.

Landers admitted that while he submitted the application, he didn’t expect to be considered as a finalist.

“It’s a great honor. Not in my wildest dreams did I think Nick Buoniconti would give me this award. I’m so honored to bring this to Cathedral,” he said.

Working out to prepare for the football season when he first received word that he was a finalist, he said receiving that information was a moment he wouldn’t forget.

“I was practically jumping up and down, I was so excited about it,” he said.

Planning on majoring in biomedical engineering, Landers said he hasn’t chosen a school yet, but has looked at Boston University, Worcester Polytechnical Institute, Rochester Polytechnical Institute and several other schools, and plans to continue his athletic career.

As he moves on beyond high school, Landers said he hopes to become an ambassador for Cathedral, much like Buoniconti.

“Nick’s made the Cathedral community very proud not only with his football, but with his fundraising and I really hope to do that in the future – make a difference and give back to the school,” he said.

Buoniconti said he hoped the school would celebrate Landers’ achievement in order to highlight the schools’ principals and attract new students.

“I really hope the school publicizes this,” he said. “They have to emphasize the fact that this is the type of student this school is turning out,”

Landers will find out if he is the award winner at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl awards ceremony on Jan. 3, 2014.

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