Eric Laugeni named “Comeback Player of the Year”

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May 012014

SCC Commissioner Al Carbone, Stefani Taschner (Daniel Hand), Eric Laugeni (Amity Regional), Michael Cianciulli, Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists

SCC Commissioner Al Carbone, Stefani Taschner (Daniel Hand), Eric Laugeni (Amity Regional), Michael Cianciulli, Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists

Two senior student athletes – Eric Laugeni, from Amity High School and Daniel Hand’s Stefani Taschner are the recipients of the 2014 “Comeback Player of the Year” scholarship award. Both students overcame severe injuries during their high school careers, yet were able to overcome them to become outstanding role models in their respective schools.

A corporate sponsor of the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC), Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists P.C. (COS) has offered a Comeback Player of the Year Scholarship for one male and one female athlete who participated in an interscholastic sport during the 2013-2014 academic year, and showed great leadership both on and off the field after their severe injury.

Coaches and school’s athletic directors nominated these student-athletes after they each suffered an unfortunate injury that prohibited them from play during their high school careers. Stefani and Eric each received a $1,000 scholarship to be used for their college education.

“This is our fourth year in awarding student-athletes from the SCC with scholarships,” explained Glenn Elia, Chief Executive Officer of COS. “Our goal has been to acknowledge two athletes that have overcome the challenges of an injury and, through hard work and determination, have become positive role models for their fellow teammates.”

“Many thanks to the doctors and staff at Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists for their support of the SCC and this scholarship,” explained SCC Commissioner Al Carbone. “Our league has many outstanding student-athletes who excel in the classroom and on the playing fields, and we are delighted that two exceptional young people in can be recognized for their admirable stories of perseverance.”

Eric Laugeni, Amity Regional – football

In the summer of 2008, Eric Laugeni was involved in a freak accident involving a fork lift that severed his left leg and his right leg was broken and dislocated. After numerous hours of surgery, doctors saved his leg, but cast a dubious outlook for him in terms of running. More surgeries and rehabilitation occurred, and Eric began to walk by himself and eventually returned to athletics, but only through a sheer determination and unending work ethic.

He played varsity football for the Spartans, and he served as the team’s co-captain this past fall.

Amity head football coach Bert Mozealous said, “Eric has worked so hard to overcome so much. That’s why I believe he was voted captain because his teammates were so impressed with his work ethic and his sacrifice.”

A standout student in the classroom and a member of the National Honor Society, Eric plans to attend the Lehigh University in the fall.
Stefani Taschner, Daniel Hand – gymnastics

Stefani recently completed a fabulous senior season for the Tigers’ SCC and Class M state champion gymnastics team. Selected the 2014 SCC Gymnast of the Year, Stefani also earned All-SCC, All-State, All-New England and Elite All-American honors, all after undergoing ankle surgery last spring.

Her surgery was required after she suffered a series of severe ankle sprains.

Stefani’s work ethic following her surgery was remarkable; her positive attitude and competitiveness allowed her to not miss a beat, returning to a high level of performance as indicated by the slew of accolades she received following the season.

Daniel Hand gymnastics head coach Kelly Smith said, “Stefani’s ability to overcome her surgery was imperative to her individual success and the success of the team. Her leadership, her performances, and her camaraderie with her teammates created a positive atmosphere in our
gym. She inspired her coaches and teammates with her positive attitude, hard work and focus.”

Stefani will attend Towson University and is interested in studying criminal justice.

Amity Football Player Has Something To Be Thankful For on This Holiday And Every Day

 Amity High School, Around Town, Latest News, Sports  Comments Off on Amity Football Player Has Something To Be Thankful For on This Holiday And Every Day
Nov 282013

Eric Laugeni takes a moment before the game

Eric Laugeni takes a moment before the game


At today’s Thanksgiving Day Football Game you may notice one player,  Amity co-captain Eric Laugeni #70 step away from his teammates after the National Anthem, take a knee on the field and bow his head for a few moments.

This has been a ritual for the Senior, who turned 17 on Tuesday. He is not praying for a win, but thanking God for giving him the opportunity to play the game that he’s loved since he was little.

The road to high school football was filled with uncertainty, beginning with one life changing moment on August 1, 2008, when Eric, then a sixth grader, was just 11 years old. It was opening day of the Amity Pop Warner Football Season and Eric was helping his father pick up safety cones. He was standing behind his father’s truck, when the cable on a fork lift that was being loaded onto a truck behind him, snapped, sending the 15,000 lb. forklift careening down and pinning the boy against the truck, crushing him from the chest down, making an indentation in the back of the truck.

Eric’s left leg was severed and his right leg was broken and dislocated.

Five years ago, Eric was told he would never run again.

Five years ago, Eric was told he would never run again.

His father rushed to his side and laid him down on the pavement and stayed with him, making sure he remained conscious until the paramedics arrived. In the ambulance, one of the EMTs said they would have to amputate the leg, which aggravated his father to no end, Eric was crying, his future uncertain.

Once at Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Laugenis were told that he would have to have surgery within 6 hours because of the risk of infection with the sand and dirt inside his open leg.

After 8 hours of surgery, the doctors said, “He’s alive. We saved the leg, but he will never run again and he’ll always have a terrible limp.”

Eric spent 8 days in the hospital with his left leg fully casted from the hip down. The broken right leg was braced, but no surgery was done on it.

On August 9, the Laugeni’s living room became a makeshift hospital room for Eric with a hospital bed and visiting physical therapists.

He couldn’t use either leg, and had to use a wheelchair to get around.

A couple of additional surgeries were done and then regular therapy at Rehab Associates.

 Mission Accomplished, with a little help from his friends.

Mission Accomplished, with a little help from his friends.

Prior to the accident, Eric had been trying to get into shape, lost 20 lbs. and was training for the Woodbridge Roadrace. He was determined to compete in the 5k, but how could he do that without the use of his legs?

Longtime Amity residents will recall the victorious photo that I ran in the Amity Observer newspaper of several friends pushing Eric in a wheelchair in the pouring rain as they approached the finish line.

During physical therapy, even as he began to walk by himself, Eric’s mom was a driving force behind his recovery. She would not let him slack off and pushed him to try as hard as he could to regain the full use of his legs (without a limp).

Some doctors suggested he take up swimming because he would never be able to do anything else. His mother was disgusted. “How can you even think of telling an 11-year-old that?”

Eric was a member of a travel basketball team at the time of the accident and his coach, Scott Hurwitz figured out a way for him to play. He spoke with the team and all opposing teams and arranged it so Eric would shoot all the foul shots for his team, therefore being an active team member, even if he couldn’t run the court.

Still, Eric wanted to play football. He worked hard to recover, sat out one season then the following year, he was back on the field again.


Never Ever Quit!

As a 7th grader at Amity Middle School, Eric was fully casted and had tutors for 3 months and therapy.


Eric is thankful for all that he is able to do. The doctor who said he should never play football again, just inspired him to work hard and prove the doc wrong.

Dr. Jim Ronai, who works on many difficult cases, knew Eric had a long battle ahead, but never discouraged him from living his dream. For this Eric is grateful.

Daily Pain and More Surgery

The accident shattered a growth plate in his left leg, so it did not grow normally afterward. His leg is 3/4-inch “off.” He goes to New York to the Hospital For Special Surgery where Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch is prepared to lengthen Eric’s femur whenever he is ready to take time off for the surgery and rehab. This could be during his college years or after, but it is better done while he is young.

Eric has chronic back and knee pain, and often it takes a while to climb out of bed. But football is his life and today, when he takes a knee after the National Anthem, take a moment to join Eric in his prayer giving thanks for the second chance on life he’s been given.