IN THE SPOTLIGHT
One of the assignments Landon Abboud had to complete for his honors astronomy class last year was a simple one:
Go outside at night.
“I was amazed,” recalls Abboud, a Glenbrook North senior strong safety. “But not just at the sky and the stars. I realized there’s an entire universe, dangling over me, over all of us.
“For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be some kind of engineer. Now, because of what I learned in that astronomy class and the path it put me on, I want to be an aerospace engineer. Or maybe an astronaut.”
He worked on Planet Earth on Sept. 28, and — following a play in the fourth quarter of a 26-7 loss at Highland Park High School — did not see stars, thankfully; those usually appear after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
But Abboud suffered an injury to his right leg.
“I got stepped on,” the 5-foot-10, 150-pounder says.
He was ordered to come off the field of play after the next play but chose not to see a trainer. Abboud planted himself next to teammates along the Spartans’ sideline and then jumped a couple of times.
“I did that to show my coaches I was fine,” says Abboud, who reentered the Central Suburban League North game and finished with nine tackles, including one for a loss on a third-and-12 play early in the fourth quarter.
Football teammates and coaches have been calling Abboud “Jet Fuel” since early August, when he returned from a two-week internship with NASA in Texas. Spartans senior lineman Dane Spengel, one of Abboud’s good friends, dubbed it “Astronaut Camp”.
“Landon is a genius, in addition to being super aggressive and super fast in football,” Spengel says. “Never stops, never down about anything. Tough and humble, too.”
Glenbrook North rocketed to a 3-0 start but has lost its last three games, with two of the setbacks (to Maine West and HP) coming in CSL North contests. Abboud wants to do all that he can to help right the ship — perhaps the Spartans’ space shuttle, in his mind — right away. Urgency abounds for Abboud, even with Glenbrook North’s final three opponents (Maine East, Deerfield and Vernon Hills) having a combined record of 5-13 through Week 6.
“We need to settle down and focus on what we need to do in order to do a better job of executing our game plan each week,” says Abboud, who recorded a sack in North’s 34-24 defeat of visiting Elk Grove in Week 3 and has served as a team captain for two games this season. “We need to play with heart and make small sacrifices for the team. I want to be that rock, that sturdy player, for my team. I want my teammates to know they can lean on me in games.
“I enter each game with that kind of mentality.”
Abboud played mostly as an undersized defensive end from fifth to eighth grade. Freshman football coaches at Glenbrook North considered Abboud and the position of strong safety a better fit, and that has been his grid job since the fall of 2014.
“Plays hard, plays physical football,” Spartans varsity coach Bob Pieper says of Abboud, whose ancestry is part German and part Egyptian. “Landon likes to hit. He plays with a lot of energy and leads with his energy.”
Abboud wrestles in the winter months and plays lacrosse in the spring. He’ll tell you he is an average grappler, because that’s what wrestlers with near-.500 records are typically considered. But Abboud looks beyond his numbers when he considers what the sport has meant to him on a big-picture level.
“Wrestling is not all about the wins and losses,” insists the son of lawyers Tony and Kelli. “It’s also about what’s inside me, what wrestling has done to help me develop the work ethic I have today. I will always be grateful for what competing as a wrestler has instilled in me through the years. And my parents … their influence has also shaped my work ethic. Along with that, they’ve also always been there for me, supported me, encouraged me to follow my dreams.”
Abboud followed directions last weekend — on college applications. He started to tackle the challenge of writing essays. Possible destinations for the young man with a promising future in the field dedicated to the development of aircraft and spacecraft: Purdue, Texas A & M, the University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Abboud’s spirit soars on Sundays, too. In church. He is an usher, Eucharistic minister, lector and Youth Group member at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Northbrook. His mother teaches Sunday school classes, and his father launched Teen Mass, an endeavor to increase the opportunities for involvement among the parish’s youth.
“It’s been great,” Landon Abboud says of Teen Mass. “You should see how connected the kids are with the adults, now that so many of us get to serve in a variety of important roles at St. Norbert.”
Notable: Glenbrook North (3-3, 0-2 in the Central Suburban League North) hosts Maine East (1-5, 0-2) on Oct. 6 (7 p.m.). The Spartans routed the Blue Demons 56-0 last fall. Maine East hasn’t scored a point this fall since a 35-6 loss to Ridgewood on Sept. 1. … Spartans senior quarterback Burke Morley threw a 22-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to senior running back Jimmy Karfis in Glenbrook North’s 26-7 loss to host Highland Park (3-3, 2-0) on Sept. 28. Karfis finished with a team-high 60 yards rushing on 13 carries. Spartans junior defensive back Ben Kieffer came down with an interception, and classmate Nick Mantas, a defensive lineman, recorded a sack. Glenbrook North defeated Highland Park 42-28 in the teams’ meeting last fall.