In Loving Memory of Uncle Lenny
“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 -
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 “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, 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).
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.
From countless touchdowns scored on the football field to pins made on the wrestling mat, Lenny was a star athlete. He attended Raritan High School in New Jersey for freshman and sophomore year, followed by James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia for junior and senior year. In high school, Lenny earned a 2-way starter position at fullback and linebacker and wrestled in the 185-pound weight class, winning multiple championships and placing at states. As a fullback, he was the man behind the scenes who got down and dirty to make everything run, carrying the team on his back while unselfishly crediting the glory to the quarterback. Lenny was a blue-collar football player.
Upon graduating from Madison High School 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, Lenny decided to stay in North Carolina and start his own family. He married his college sweetheart and together they raised two kids.
Several years later, his life flipped upside down. The changing economic conditions in North Carolina caused constant employee turnover within the job market, rendering it difficult to maintain a stable occupation. Lenny went from working as a salesperson for a synthetic grass company, to opening his own restaurant, and eventually manufacturing lumber. Although his professional career was unpredictable, his blue-collar mentality never ceased. On top of that, his marriage went South and ultimately ended in a divorce.
Despite the heartache and darkness, Lenny never lost sight of his faith in God to point him in the right direction.
Lenny moved back to Virginia in 2004 in search of making a difference in the world. Although it was difficult to move hundreds of miles away from his kids, his trust in God gave him the strength to rediscover himself. He returned to his Alma Mater where he worked as a special education teacher and as an assistant coach for the football and wrestling teams. In 2011, Lenny accepted his “dream job” as the head coach of Madison’s high school football team. He built the Warhawks into a football powerhouse: going from underdogs with a 1-9 losing record in 2013 to Liberty Conference Champions with a 11-2 winning record in 2016. As the head coach for six years, he not only change the football program, he changed lives.
The news of Lenny’s death overwhelmed everyone with grief. He was too young to leave this world. He still had so much advice to give, so many lessons to teach, so many missions to achieve.
By the age of 52, Lenny left an everlasting mark on the world.
Over 1,000 people attended his funeral service at Vienna Presbyterian Church. The sanctuary was filled with family, friends, coaches, teachers, former teammates, players, students, and even ex-wives.
The story of Lenny’s legacy is not about fame and fortune. He will not be remembered for the amount of money in his bank account or for his tangible assets. He will not be remembered for the number of books published, for the amount of television appearances, or for being a public figure on social media.
Lenny’s true legacy is etched into the mind of every life he touched. He will be remembered as a visionary coach, a devoted family man, an inspirational teacher, a selfless friend, and a guardian angel.
“Warhawks on three, Family on six, Believe on nine,” cheered Lenny during every game, every practice, every team huddle. Lenny stitched the Warhawks into a family, serving as a father-figure to hundreds. He didn’t define family by last names or bloodline. He believed that teammates who win together, lose together, cry together, and bleed together become brothers. “The culture he created was one where the team was your extended family, and to this day I remain close with many of the friends I made on the football team,” says former player Ryan Barrett.
Lenny believed in everyone regardless of their background, their talent, their attitude. “Coach Schultz motivated me to go from being one of the worst players on my freshman football team to being a captain on the varsity football team my senior year,” says Stefano Devigili. “Coach Schultz changed my life.”
Lenny believed in second chances. Noah Clemente, a former Madison player, values the opportunity that Lenny provided him, “Coach Schultz showed me the utmost respect and love when I was a troubled kid transferring high schools as a senior. I was blindsided by it. Due to that and his refusal to accept mediocrity from me, I was able to change my life.”
Above all, Lenny believed in leaving no doubt. He encouraged all of his players to always give 100%, to put all that they had 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. Johnny Hecht, a former captain, highlighted how Schultz’s legacy is incorporated into the team’s training every single day, “The final reps of a drill at practice, voluntary ones, are called ‘Schultz reps.’”
As a coach, Lenny left no doubt. He gave people a reason to remember his name. Every Madison Warhawk plays for Coach Schultz, whether he is on the field or in heaven.
DEVOTED FAMILY MAN
To Lenny, the greatest blessing in life is family. If you ever had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Lenny, he applauded his father’s immeasurable wisdom, glorified his mother’s Puerto Rican cooking, idolized his older brother’s hard work ethic, and admired his little sister’s abounding strength. As the middle sibling, he was the glue that made his fabulous family of five stick together through thick and thin.
His little sister, Christine Stone, won the battle with malignant colon cancer, yet struggles over her brother’s death every single day. “I am a cancer survivor and Lenny sat with me through many long hours of chemotherapy treatments. He helped me heal. He comforted me. He cared for my family. Now I wish I could do that for him,” says Christine. She recalls gracefully planting seeds in her garden when she received the phone call from her brother Eddie regarding the tragic news of the car accident. These seeds are like Lenny’s legacy: planting seeds in a garden he never got to see. This past year, Christine followed in her brother’s footsteps and took a position as a special education teacher at Madison High School. While Lenny will never get to see his sister carrying out his role as a teacher, his spirit has been beside her every step of the way.
Lenny deeply loved all of his nieces and nephews as if they were his own children. “Uncle Lenny was more than just my uncle, he was like a second Dad to me,” says his niece Jaqueline Schultz. “He used to peep his head in the window during my sports practices, and now I believe it’s still the same. Although he’s no longer physically present on the other side of that window, I know he’s still watching and protecting me from above.” He was our protector.
Lenny’s youngest nephew, Roger “Bubba” Stone, played middle school football last fall, “but clearly something was missing and just not the same. No Lenny. I looked for him on the sidelines and he was not there.” Bubba looked forward to transferring to Madison to play for Lenny, “It has been my goal to play football and wrestle for Coach Uncle Lenny. I wanted to make him proud and to keep learning from him. 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. While Lenny planted the seed, Bubba sprouted into a Madison Warhawk for his Uncle in heaven.
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. One of his former students, Jacob Smith, recently earned the Eagle Scout rank through Boy Scouts of America and dedicated his “mentor pin” in grateful appreciation of Lenny. Jacob acknowledged Lenny as the most instrumental person in his high school journey – a teacher, mentor, and friend.
Lenny was a teacher beyond the walls of the classroom; he was a teacher on the football field too. Lenny taught how to win and lose, how to get along with others to achieve a common goal, and how to go out and dominate. The lessons he taught on the field are presently manifested into his players lives. “The reason he was such a special coach is because the examples he set and the lessons he taught in work ethic, pride, and grit have carried through other parts of my life,” says Ryan Barrett. Lenny also taught integrity, sacrifice, and courage. Conor Sekas, a former player of Lenny, regards him as “a very big driving point in my life,” who ultimately helped influence Conor to play football at Clemson on the 2017 National Championship Team. “He taught us leadership, he taught us how to deal with adversity, he taught us essentially how to be a man,” says Conor.
While everyone has the power to change the world, Lenny used his to make an inspirational difference.
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. While they were fiercely competitive, Eddie regards his best friend Lenny as his “Champion.” The two brothers 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 selfless best friend.
Lenny’s soul radiated with unconditional love for everyone. He would give the shirt off his back to a friend in need, feed his lunch to a homeless man on the street, or offer maintenance repair to a handicapped neighbor. He put the welfare of his players before his own. Nick Conforti, a former Madison football player, said he would remember Schultz as “one of the few coaches who loved every player more than himself.”
Whether he befriended a student sitting alone at lunch or comforted a player following a tough loss, Lenny’s charisma turned frowns upside down. Delegate Mark Keam of Virginia’s 35th district read a resolution from the General Assembly about Schultz, “Every time I saw Lenny and chatted with him, you could walk away smiling because he just made you smile. I just always remember he was such a gregarious guy who always made you feel like you were a part of his team, even if you weren’t wearing a uniform.”
An irreplaceable friend and truly one of a kind, Lenny’s heart of gold could move mountains.
Lenny continues to spiritually leave a mark on this world. His role as a guardian angel is eternally present.
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. His miraculous recovery cannot only be attributed to the efforts of medical professionals, but also to the protection provided by his guardian angel up in heaven. Lenny delivered Albert a “second wind” to breathe freely. After being a patient at Walter Reed Military Medical Center for nine months, Albert returned to active duty as a Naval Officer. He fights for the United States of America. He fights for his Uncle Lenny.
On the one-year anniversary of Lenny’s death, Eddie found the courage to visit his brother’s gravesite for the first time since his burial, “When I arrived at Fairfax Memorial Park, it was bright and sunny outside. After talking to Lenny for a while, the sky opened up and the clouds poured down rain.” That same night, Eddie began showing symptoms of hematuria. The doctors diagnosed him with renal cell carcinoma and estimated the cancer to be five years old. On the verge of metastasis, the cancerous cells were fortunately confined to his left kidney. Following a left radical nephrectomy, Eddie is cancer free.
Lenny has the best seat in the stadium. He sees every pass, every tackle, every snap. Heaven is the number one vantage point.
There is no final chapter to Lenny’s legacy; it lives on through his family, friends, players, students, and every person who walks through the hallways of Madison High School. Lenny believed in chasing dreams, and as a result, his family established The Lenny Schultz Scholarship Fund in his honor. Two generous monetary awards are given out each year: to a football player/wrestler and to a student in the special education department, in hopes that they attend a higher-level institution to pursue their dreams. 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. Lenny’s inspirational presence is everywhere. His face is illuminated on Madison’s Athletic Hall of Fame for wrestling and football, his mother’s cooking is enjoyed at team dinners, 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.