Montini Catholic senior receives the Johnny Weiger 'Spirit of '76' Award
Montini Catholic's April 1 football game (vs. Notre Dame Dons) commemorated the life of a very special member of the Montini Catholic family.
Every year, family, friends and fans set aside a few minutes before the game to reflect on the life of, and pay tribute to, former student and football team member Johnny Weiger. Normally, the team holds its annual charity game benefiting the JAW Foundation, however this year's fundraising had to be put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Karl and Fran Weiger announced the recipient of their eighth annual "Spirit of '76" Award in Johnathan's memory.
The Weiger family is inspired to present a special award each year to a unique member of the varsity football team.
"My husband and I get to know the players during the year," said Johnny's mother, Fran. "With help from staff and coaches, we choose the player who best embodies that of great character faith and sportsmanship."
This year's recipient was senior Cooper Petersen of Downers Grove.
"Cooper has excelled both in the classroom and on the football field over his years here at Montini, and we are very proud that the Weiger family has selected him as this year's Johnny Weiger Award winner," said head varsity football coach Mike Bukovsky. He describes Cooper as a well-rounded young man, who epitomizes the high school student athlete experience. "He is a soft-spoken, humble player, who always demonstrates the highest degree of character in everything he does, and is a true ambassador for the Montini Catholic football program."
Johnny Weiger joined Montini Catholic's school community for the 2011-12 school year as a member of the Class of 2015. He passed away on Nov. 4, 2012. Johnny's jersey number, #76, was officially retired on this night as well. A special framed jersey was presented to the family. (A second jersey will be displayed in Montini's John Gavin Stadium Club as a tribute to Johnny.) An enthusiastic crowd of Bronco fans respectfully greeted the Weiger family as they walked onto the field to accept the jersey and present the "Spirit of '76" Award.
"Throughout his battle with leukemia and TTP, Johnny displayed the spirit of a champion," said President Jim Segredo. "He always showed great character, courage, fight and a deep commitment to his faith. The 'Spirit of '76' Award pays tribute to Johnny and the positive influence he has had on his teammates and peers."
"It's always such an amazing night, not only because we honor Johnny, but because we honor a student that, like Johnny, embodies great character faith and sportsmanship," said Johnny's mother, Fran. "Along with that, we are always overwhelmed by the continued support by past and present Bronco families!"
The JAW Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by the Weiger family to support Pediatric Adolescent Leukemia Support (PALS) -- inspired by their son, former Montini student and football player, Johnny Weiger. JAW volunteers devote their time to raising funds for families with children undergoing treatment for leukemia in the hopes of easing their financial burden.
Cooper Petersen is the son of Miles and Melanie Petersen. He attended St. Mary of Gostyn School in Downers Grove and is a member of St. Mary of Gostyn Parish.