From Tragedy to Triumph: A Love of Soccer & Football

Ashton Legenza  |  Age 17  |  Mount Michael Benedictine

By most accounts, Ashton discovered his love of soccer and football rather late in his childhood years.

Joining the Elkhorn Soccer Club in 5th grade, Ashton began his soccer career. He quickly started to improve and worked his way up through several club teams until he earned a position on a team in his 8th grade year that competed in the most competitive club soccer league in the Midwest – the Midwest Regional League. Ashton and his family regularly traveled throughout the Midwest to Kansas City, Cedar Rapids, and Madison, Wisconsin. As a freshman at Mount Michael, he made the varsity team and split playing time with a senior at forward.

Freshman at Mount Michael Benedictine are required to play a fall and spring sport. With his spring sport already determined, Ashton decided to tryout for football as his fall sport. At tryouts, the varsity head coach quickly noticed Ashton’s speed and placed him on the varsity roster. Midway through the third quarter of the first football game of the season, Ashton was called into the game due to a player injury; his coach informed him he would be getting the ball. On that first drive, he caught the pass for an eight yard gain. As the season continued, he became a starting wide receiver and even got his first touchdown. His sophomore year, he once again earned the starting wide receiver spot and was a kick returner for special teams. He finished that season with a couple more touchdowns and an all-district award for special teams.

One summer day before the start his junior year, Ashton’s life took a drastic turn. As a passenger in a vehicle that had lost control on a gravel country road, Ashton’s left side of his face was shattered when the car made impact with a tree; he lost nine of his front teeth, and suffered from brain bleeding and a major concussion. Ashton made a full recovery despite the missing teeth but was not allowed to play football his junior year due to the head trauma. His future soccer seasons were also in jeopardy. Unable to stay away from football, Ashton volunteered to film the games for the team in lieu of suiting up.

Ashton’s opportunity for a comeback came in the spring of his junior year when he was cleared by doctors to play soccer. He helped lead the Knights to their first district championship in school history. Finishing the season with 15 goals and three assists, Ashton won the “offensive player of the year” trophy from his team and received an all-state honorable mention.

The summer before his senior year, Ashton endured multiple surgeries to begin putting his mouth back together and his return to football was still questionable. Ultimately, doctors approved his return to the football field and Ashton felt the need to put two years worth of play into one season. He worked very hard through the summer to best prepare for the upcoming season. His hard work payed off, the Knights are currently 3-0 (at time of publication) for the first time since 1996. Ashton already has a game saving 98 yard pick-6 interception, an 80 yard reception for touchdown, and a 97 years kick return for touchdown.

Off the field, Ashton has accumulated a 3.6 GPA and has taken many AP and Honors courses. His name has been on the First Honors and Deans list at Mount Michael since he started attending. He is a member of the National Honor Society and has competed on the robots and chemistry teams. Volunteering is also important to Ashton with more than 100 hours of community service tallied thus far during his high school years in places all over Omaha and also in rural Mexico.

Ashton has a younger sister, Avery (14), and is the son Michelle Legenza and Michael Cullen of Elkhorn, and Patrick Legenza.

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