NORTH ANDOVER – Lou Minicucci and Jake Wolinski met for the first time yesterday.

Minicucci was representing his company, MINCO Corp., a commercial real estate and development company that sponsors The Eagle-Tribune Student-Athlete Awards. Wolinski is the 2020-21 winner.

Despite about five decades in age difference, they have a lot in common.

Both are North Andover natives. Both are strong — in fact, Minicucci bench-pressed 300 pounds recently. And both played middle linebacker in football. 

Wolinski is one of 18 student-athlete nominees from area schools and he had some impressive company, including those headed to places such as Dartmouth and Boston colleges, Northeastern and Johns Hopkins universities, along with UMass Amherst, the University of New Hampshire and the College of the Holy Cross.

For winning this honor, he received $1,000 from Minicucci as the contest's sponsor. Additionally, he and all of the nominees committed to performing five hours of community service with $250 to be donated to the organization of their choice.

Headed to the Naval Academy in 2022, Wolinski will spend the next year attending Suffield Academy in Connecticut, where he will be required to take Advanced Placement classes. He also took four AP classes during his senior year at North Andover High and got straight A's.

In sports, Wolinski captained the varsity football, basketball and lacrosse teams. He was also named an Eagle-Tribune All-Star in football and basketball in 2021. The newspaper's All-Stars are named after each sports season.

Over the last three years, he volunteered his time at leadership workshops for elementary and middle school students. And this summer, he's working at the North Andover Joseph N. Hermann Youth Center.

“Jake is one of the most special kids we’ve had here,” said Rick Gorman, the center's executive director for 30-plus years. “He’s always been a leader, the kind of kid you could depend on. To watch him grow and commit himself in the classroom and in sports has been a joy.”

Wolinski chose the Youth Center as the recipient of his $250.

“I was here so much as a kid,” Wolinski said. “This is a special place. I always connected with everyone here. I think it’s important I come back here and support the kids in our town.”

Minicucci visited Wolinski at work to present his award.

He said Wolinski’s affinity for helping younger children at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and the Youth Center is impressive.

“I really love the fact that all of the nominees are dedicated to community service and helping others,” Minicucci said. “Being a great athlete is nice, but in the end, I want to be around people that care about helping others less fortunate. Jake fits that bill.”

There is one thing that the two don't have in common: excellence in basketball. Told about a game in January when Wolinski hit 11 three-pointers, the sponsor was impressed.

“I could play defense,” Minicucci said. “But honestly, basketball was not my game.”

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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