On the morning of June 24th, 2017, Lenny Schultz drove to Maryland to go fishing on his boat in the Chesapeake Bay with his brother, Edward, and his nephew, Albert. As Captain Lenny and his first and second mates slowly traveled through the no-wake zone, the shiny lettering of the boat’s name, Second Wind, reflected off the water’s surface.
Upon exiting the restricted zone, Lenny shouted one of his favorite lines from Top Gun “I feel the need… the need for speed” and pulled down on the accelerator. They eventually came to a stop in the middle of the bay, securely anchored the boat, and casted their fishing rods into the dark-colored water. The three men chatted about the upcoming football season as they waited for a fish to bite, not knowing what would be at the other end of the line.
Driving home on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway, Lenny noticed his boat began to detach from the trailer hitch and immediately pulled over into the median. As the men frantically attempted to re-secure the boat, highway traffic zoomed by them. Before they knew it, a box truck traveling at 60 miles per hour drifted in their direction. They saw their lives flash before their eyes.
Lenny killed at age 52. Albert barely survived. Eddie suffered minor physical injuries and lasting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The shocking news of Lenny’s death spread like wildfire throughout the city of Vienna, Virginia and beyond. The accident occurred around 4:00 PM that afternoon. By 6:30 PM, messages were buzzing, news articles were being published, and posts were accumulating on social media regarding the tragic events of that day. Friends and family members piled into the lobby at Fairfax Inova Hospital, letting out loud wails of disbelief as they waited for updates from the physicians.
In the immediate days following the accident, football players and wrestlers gathered in the auditorium at James Madison High School to grieve over the loss of their beloved coach and to prepare for the unfathomable football season that was quickly approaching. Additionally, members of the Vienna community gathered around Madison High School’s “spirit rock” for a candlelight vigil to support Albert’s fight for survival.
One week later, guests from near and far gathered at Vienna Presbyterian Church for the visitation on June 30th. A myriad of people assembled in a line that extended along the perimeter of the sanctuary, into the narthex, and out onto the street. One-by-one, guests approached the open casket to properly say goodbye to Lenny, in hopes of obtaining closure. To the left of the casket, members of the Schultz family formed a receiving line to greet guests, and in exchange, they were offered heartfelt condolences.
The following day, on July 1st, over 1,000 people attended the funeral service at Vienna Presbyterian Church to honor the beloved coach. The sanctuary was filled with family, friends, coaches, teachers, former teammates, players, students, and even ex-wives. Guests and family alike came together in unity, sharing their favorite stories and memories, to paint a vivid picture of Lenny’s life. To paint a picture of what made Lenny a great coach: visionary, inspirational, devoted, and selfless.
“He always had a vision of his future,” friend and former high school teammate George Cholakis said. Lenny earned a 2-way starter position at fullback and linebacker and wrestled in the 185-pound weight class at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. In 1983, Lenny advanced his academic and athletic careers at North Carolina State on a full ride scholarship. He played four years of varsity football and three years of varsity wrestling as a member of the Wolfpack family.
Following his graduation from NC State in 1988 and years of turmoil while living in North Carolina, Lenny’s aspirations led him back home. He returned to his Alma Mater and accepted his “dream job” as the head coach of Madison’s football team.
Poor fan attendance, outdated facilities, and a 1-9 losing record marked the realm of Madison football during the start of his coaching career. Liberty Conference Championships, an 11-2 winning record, and community-wide engagement marked the realm of Madison football at the end of his coaching career. The key to success: a visionary leader.
“Lenny always rooted for the underdog, he gave kids second chances, and he became a hero to many,” George Cholakis said in his eulogy at Lenny’s funeral. “His visions built the Warhawks into a football powerhouse.”
Leading a team of underdogs requires imagining future potential, believing in everyone regardless of their background, their talent, their attitude, and refusing to give up. “Coach Schultz showed me the utmost respect and love when I was a troubled kid transferring high schools as a senior”, former Madison player Noah Clemente said. “I was blindsided by it. Due to that and his refusal to accept mediocrity from me, I was able to change my life.”
Leaders create opportunities to transform the impossible to the possible. “I shall never forget how passionate Lenny was to Sean when he went to Madison High School,” Sean’s mother Kathy said. “Sean is autistic and Mr. Schultz took him under his wings and included him in the Friday night football games as the team ‘mascot’.”
A visionary coach turns dreams into a reality. Lenny envisioned a locker room next to the football field for team meetings; however, the athletic department denied his request. The year following his death, thanks to the efforts of Madison Principal Greg Hood, local builder John Sekas, and the entire Vienna Community, Lenny’s dream became a reality.
Through the lessons he taught, the examples he set, and the words he left unsaid, Lenny lead his life in a way that serves as an inspiration for us all. He worked as a special education teacher at James Madison High School for over two decades. Whether it be physical, emotional, or intellectual, Lenny only saw his students’ “disabilities” as possibilities. His ability to empathize and connect with others allowed him to address the individual needs and differences of everyone.
“Coach Schultz changed my life,” former player Stefano Devigili said.
Coaches teach how to win and lose, how to get along with others to achieve a common goal, and how to go out and dominate. They teach players to always give their 100%, to put all that they have on the line, and to finish hard, strong, and with a purpose. Lenny’s death occurred with less than two months to go before the start of fall football. Refusing to give up, his players entered the 2017 season with a stronger bond and a harder work ethic than ever before. “Schultz’s legacy is incorporated into practice every single day,” former team captain Johnny Hecht said. “The final reps of a drill at practice, voluntary ones, are called ‘Schultz reps.’”
A great coach doesn’t confine teaching to the walls of a classroom or to the boundary lines of a football field. A great coach teaches lessons that manifest into all aspects of a player’s life. “Lenny taught us leadership, he taught us how to deal with adversity, he taught us essentially how to be a man,” former player Conor Sekas said. Sekas regards Lenny as “a very big driving point in my life,” who ultimately helped influence him into playing football at Clemson on the 2017 National Championship Team.
Inspirational coaches not only change the football program, they change lives.
Lenny was an assistant football coach at Madison while his nephew Albert was a student and player. The car accident on June 24th left Albert suffering from intracranial hematomas, a fractured skull, crushed eye sockets, swollen shut eyes, a broken nose, a demolished forehead, and buckets full of coughed up blood. During his extended stay in the intensive care unit at Fairfax Inova Hospital, his life was on the line and many were uncertain if he would survive. “My miraculous recovery cannot only be attributed to the efforts of medical professionals, but also to the ‘second wind’ provided by my guardian angel up in heaven,” Albert Schultz said. After being a patient at Walter Reed Military Medical Center for nine months, Albert returned to active duty as a Naval Officer. “I fight for the United States of America. I fight for my Uncle Lenny.”
“I fight for the United States of America. I fight for my Uncle Lenny.”Albert Schultz
Devoted Family Member
Leonard “Lenny” Anthony Schultz was raised in Hazlet, New Jersey, where he earned the nickname “Backyard Brawler”. Growing up, Lenny could be found roaming the streets of his neighborhood beside the hip of his older brother Eddie with a football in hand, tucked high and away. He could also be found walking his little sister Chrissy to the bus stop or attending a Sunday morning church service with his mom and dad. Above all, he could be found spending endless hours with his teammates who had turned into family.
A great coach does not define family by last names or bloodline. A great coach loves each and every single one of their players as if they were their own child. “Warhawks on three, Family on six, Believe on nine,” cheered Lenny during every game, every practice, every team huddle. Lenny served as a father-figure to hundreds. “He treated me as if I was his own son. He was like a second Dad to me,” Lenny’s youngest nephew Roger Stone said. “It has been my goal to play football and wrestle for Coach Uncle Lenny. I was going to live with him and go to his school. We were a team with a dream.” Bubba didn’t let Lenny’s death prevent him from playing football for him. As a current member of the Madison freshman football team, he gives his “100% in every play in honor of Lenny.”
Devoted coaches create teams that beat with one heart. “The culture Lenny created was one where the team was your extended family,” former player Ryan Barrett said. Lenny stitched the Warhawks into a family. He believed a brotherhood was formed by teammates who win together, lose together, cry together, and bleed together.
While a coach’s heart may stop beating, a devoted coach’s heart that has touched so many lives can’t help but live on in those it loved. From countless touchdowns scored on the field to pins made on the wrestling mat, brothers Eddie and Lenny were a force to be reckoned with. Their competitiveness symbolized “brotherly love.” This chapter of life has been hard for Eddie without Lenny by his side; nevertheless, Eddie keeps writing the story in honor of his best friend. Eddie helped establish The Lenny Schultz Scholarship Fund to keep the late coach’s dreams alive. Two generous monetary awards are given out each year: to a football player/wrestler and to a student in the special education department, as a token of Lenny’s devotion
“Lenny was the captain of his boat,” George Cholakis said in his eulogy at Lenny’s funeral. “He was the type of guy that would take you fishing, prepare your rod and reel, bait your hook for you, and give you the pole with a line in the water. And when you caught a fish and reeled it up, he would unhook it for you, put it in his cooler, and skin, scale, and clean it for you. And then he would have the notion to cook it for you.” As the man behind the scenes who got down and dirty to make everything run, Lenny could carry a team on his back with his blue-collar mentality.
Selfless coaches put the welfare of their players before their own. “Lenny was one of the few coaches who loved every player more than himself,” former Madison player Nick Conforti said.
He would give the shirt off his back to a friend in need, feed his sandwich to a student who ran out of lunch money, or comfort a player following a touch loss. His heart of gold could move mountains.
A selfless friend is fearless, loyal, and a champion for others. “We all knew Lenny to be a fierce competitor, but his best quality was that he was a fierce friend,” Cholakis said. Measuring 6-foot-3 and weighing 225 pounds, Lenny was a fearless warrior. He was the type of friend who would start a brawl with the bullies, jump in front of a car, or take a bullet for you. A great coach’s soul radiates with unconditional love for everyone. Their compassion and selflessness resonate throughout the entire community. Lenny’s presence lives on through his family, friends, players, students, and every person who walks through the hallways of Madison High School. His face is illuminated on Madison’s Athletic Hall of Fame for wrestling and football, his life is celebrated at the county fair on the first football game of the season, “leave no doubt” is etched in everyone’s minds, and “LS62” is imprinted on the team’s helmets, shirts, and wristbands. There is no doubt that Lenny’s legacy will live on forever.
“When you wake up, I want you to ask yourself ‘What can I do today to make a positive difference in the world? What can I do today to help somebody in need? What can I do today to be the best possible servant to my God?’”—Leonard Anthony Schultz