ND quarterback Lezynski, administrator McWilliam honored for athletics, academics, leadership
By Rich Fisher | Trenton Monitor Correspondent
In writing a letter of recommendation to nominate Xavier Lezynski as Notre Dame High School’s candidate for this year’s George Wah Scholar-Leader-Athlete honor, Principal Mary Liz Ivins got right to the crux of what makes the senior such an outstanding person and athlete.
“What impresses me most about Xavier is his true integrity,” the principal wrote. “Before each game, he can be found offering a prayer in our Grotto. It has never mattered to him what other students may think. And, his sincerity has brought other students to this practice.”
Ivins concluded her letter by saying “I do not think you could have a more perfect candidate.”
The officials who ran the March 13 dinner at the Princeton Hyatt in West Windsor felt the same way.
Sponsored by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation, the event provides $1,000 scholarships to players from 23 high schools in and around Mercer County. There are also three additional awards, with Lezynski winning the $1,500 Ed Cook Scholarship.
Xavier’s latest honor is just another testament to his faith. His sister Siobhan and brothers Blaise and Nick all went to Notre Dame High and Notre Dame University. His dad, Greg, was a boxer and wrestler at the University of Notre Dame, while his mom, Jacquelyn, was a volleyball player in South Bend.
Aside from the legendary Golden Dome, there is also a famed grotto at the University that is a shrine to the Blessed Mother. Happily for Lezynski, there is a similar grotto at his Lawrenceville high school.
“My mom always told me what a special place it is and that I’m very lucky to have a grotto at my high school,” Lezynski said. “She said it should be your goal to go every single day to offer up a 30-second prayer. Give 30 seconds at least to just offer your time to Mary every single day.
“I’ve kind of made it my mission every single day to thank God for all the opportunities he’s given me. It’s like my sanctuary. Every time I’m there I’m at peace. It’s been that place where I can just go after a tough day and kind of unwind.”
And, as Ivins noted, some students may feel self-conscious about such public displays of devotion. It doesn’t faze Lezynski in the least.
“My faith has been very important to me ever since I was born,” said Xavier, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Newtown, Pa. “We’re a very staunch Catholic family. We try to not care what other people think when it comes to faith. If they’re going to say you’re wrong for doing that or you’re weird for doing that, for just praying, I have no problem with people saying that. I’m just gonna keep doing it.”
Lezynski’s faith has been rewarded in the classroom and on the football field.
As a player, he quarterbacked the Irish back into the state playoffs for the first time in years after moving over from safety early in his junior season. He led Mercer County in passing last fall, was named All-Area quarterback and received ND’s Offensive Most Valuable Player Award.
During a week where he would be unable to play due to an ankle issue, Lezynski still made his presence felt by placing his injured foot in a bucket of ice and warming up his fellow QBs. He would then go help coach the quarterbacks until his foot bothered him, when he would return to the ice bucket and watch film on and iPad between plays.
It was those moments that overshadow all the great plays on the field for coach Marc Lordi.
“In all my years around football I have never met a player more dedicated to his teammates than Xavier Lezynski,” Lordi said. “My lasting image of Xavier will undoubtedly be him sitting on a sideline bench with his foot in a bucket of ice, throwing footballs and warming up other quarterbacks.”
He was equally dedicated to his studies, as witnessed by a cumulative grade point average of 96.4 (out of 100). A member of the National Honor society, Lezynski serves as a Eucharistic Minister during school-wide liturgies at NDHS. He also has served as student government treasurer and vice-president and attended two State Student Government conventions.
The list of his extracurricular activities and volunteer work is endless, and he credits it all to his roots. His brother Nick was ND’s Scholar-Leader-Athlete winner in 2006 and so Xavier marked that down as a goal.
“It’s really a cool thing to be able to carry on that legacy,” he said. “My family has a long history at Notre Dame. I’ve always prided myself on trying to succeed on the field and in the classroom. It’s an honor to have the chance to be recognized for it.”
In Lezynski’s mind, he had the perfect trail to follow.
“My whole family has been an influence,” he said. “With my brothers it’s been a good example to follow because of how they’ve done it in the classroom and on the field. They’ve been successful in so many things. The work ethic they have, has inspired me to work as hard as them, if not harder.
“I sometimes think it’s a competition. I’ll see their GPA, it’s a 95, so I want to get that extra point and be ahead of them. I want that extra honor when it comes to sports. I’ve been really blessed to have my siblings as my role models. They’re my heroes. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to have that example set for them and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
He is well on his way to doing that. Lezynski’s goal is to be a doctor, although he has yet to decide on a college. There is the obvious choice of Notre Dame, but he is still waiting on acceptance from there and several other schools.
Xavier fears his chance of getting a football scholarship may have passed, but says if something comes along, he will weigh that against academic opportunities at other schools. If not, he will try and walk on at whatever school he attends.
Nick played football at the University of Notre Dame and now coaches at University of Connecticut, Siobhan was a dancer in college and Nick played baseball.
“Ever since I was a youngster it’s been Notre Dame through and through,” Xavier said. “When it comes down to this decision, they’re in the mix of course, but I’m still going to consider other options.”
And if he does not choose ND, will it rock the family foundation to its core? Is the family pen even capable of writing out a tuition check to anywhere else?
“That’s always a conversation piece for people,” Xavier said. “We’ll see how it might work out.
“My parents say it’s my choice,” he said, adding with a grin, “At least they say it’s my choice.”
Also honored at the George Wah Dinner, was Dave McWilliam, the Student Life Administrator at Notre Dame High School. McWilliam won the inaugural Nick Gusz Good Guy Award for all he has done to contribute to athletics in the Delaware Valley for the past 39 years.