Louis Minicucci Jr. drove by the North Andover Middle School on Route 125 a few months ago and looked over at the empty fields, particularly the football stadium.
That was where the high school used to be located when he graduated in 1967.
He remembered feeling sad.
COVID-19 has been a wrecking ball in a lot of obvious ways around the world, in the United States and, especially, right here in our neck of the woods which includes the Merrimack Valley and southern N.H.
Some of the collateral damage in its way was the closing of schools in March. Followed by the cancelling of our spring high school sports. Which meant the senior experience, which means the spring and its sports season, was never going to happen.
Understanding the importance of sports, as well as the academic experience, Minicucci, owner of MINCO Corp., a commercial real estate company in our region, stepped up. Big time.
Minicucci wanted to do something for high school seniors on their way out before their transition to college.
He decided to sponsor the 2019-20 Eagle-Tribune Student Athlete Award, honoring the best of the best from our 22 area high schools.
This is on the courts, fields and tracks as well as the classroom.
"I just couldn't imagine what the seniors must be feeling like, having to take classes on-line and not play sports in their last season," said Minicucci. "I loved my high school athletic experience. In fact, I believe it shaped who I am today. The things I learned, the camaraderie, the work ethic, the team work, the tenacity ... those things are applicable in my business today."
Minicucci played football all four years while also playing two years of basketball and three years of baseball.
As a football player, he was on the field for every play his senior year other than the fourth quarter of one blowout. The lessons learned were more than he could've imagined.
"Our quarterback called our plays on offense and I called the plays on defense," said Minicucci. "You had to be prepared and ready to make decisions under pressure. I will never forget that experience and all of my experiences playing sports in high school."
For the next 11 days that The Eagle-Tribune prints, beginning tomorrow (Thurs., May 27), we will be honoring two area high school seniors for their achievements.
Only one was nominated per school with emphasis on students who are considered elite students and among our better athletes. School principals, athletic directors, coaches and teachers participated in nominating the student-athletes.
After all of the students, their stories and accomplishments have been documented we will select one winner to receive a $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of Minicucci and the MINCO Corp.
As you will see, we have some really quality young men and women being developed at our area schools.
Enjoy their stories. We sure have.