Aquinas junior, Ben Kingsley, received this year’s Black Lion Award at a ceremony held at the school on Monday, May 16.
While the Black Lion Award is given to a football player, it is not awarded for athletic ability or athletic accomplishments – it is awarded to those who exemplify the character of Don Holleder, “leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice, and above all, an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself."
“It’s really flattering,” said Ben in regard to receiving his award. “Growing up I got to watch Ricky Todd and Joe DeBonis receive this award and was pulled up for that sectional run with Joe when he received his Black Lion Award so I actually got to see that leadership and learn from the people around me.”
The national award bears great significance to Aquinas as it is given in memory of Major Don Holleder, an Aquinas alumnus of the Class of 1952, and former West Point All-American who died in combat in Vietnam on October 17, 1967. The award also commemorates the men of the Black Lions – the 28th Infantry Regiment – who died with Holleder that day.
Every high school, middle school and youth football team in America is eligible to participate in the Black Lion Award program. Coaches choose one player at the end of the season who fits the award criteria and submit a letter of nomination explaining how that player exemplifies Don Holleder’s character.
In his nomination letter for this award, Aquinas head football coach Derek Annechino ‘89 said of Ben:
His value was not only for his ability on the field, but also the leadership ability and the hard work and dedication he brought with him to the program every day. His work ethic and leadership by example were the reasons the coaching staff selected Ben as one of our team captains for both his junior year and next year when he’s a senior.
Ben embraced the program philosophy, the expectations of our captains, and worked hard to convince his teammates that the philosophy in place would lead to a successful season. He always worked hard and pushed others to work hard.
Ben’s entire high school career was about sacrifice for the team. He gave 100% in every workout, practice, and game. His physical toughness while battling through injuries, not missing practices or games, helped lead us to a championship and more importantly was a glaring example of the importance of team over individual.