BUENA VISTA, Va. – On paper, it was just another regular-season high school football game for Parry McCluer, battling district foe Bath County; however, for sophomore Landon Catlett, it proved to be an unforgettable night.
“You can hear it on the video, one of my best friends said score a touchdown or something right before that. As soon as I scored, I just thought about my dad and how he coached me from when I was a little kid all the way through high school,” said Landon.
Twenty-five years ago, Landon’s dad, Eric Catlett, was in a similar scenario, as he kicked a game-winning field goal for the Blues against Rockbridge County.
The then multi-sport athlete would go on to instill athletics not only in his son Landon, having him dribble three balls in the basement on a Sunday morning, but the community as well, including the likes Evan James Cook.
“Growing up everyone wanted to be like Eric. He was a nice dude. He was actually our coach that year we didn’t win a game and was always motivational always made sure we played our hardest no matter what the scoreboard was. And he’s one of the reasons I fell in love with football,” said Evan.
Eric was often described as the ultimate family man and the life of the party. As an avid fisherman, he even found light on the days that the fish weren’t biting.
“He was always wide open, never a dull moment when he was at home,” said Landon.
Eric’s infectious spirit touched all whom he met, which is why the community continues to grieve the loss of a husband, father and mentor after blood clots reached his lungs and heart following an auto accident earlier this year.
On hearing the news of his father’s death, “I was heartbroken. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling it’s like a piece of my heart fell off,” recalled Landon.
Evan was one of the first teammates to reach out to Landon after the tragic loss, saying it’s not what he wanted to do but rather, what he needed to do.
“It’s my job to be there as a best friend/brother. That’s really our relationship we’re always there when we need each other, got each other for advice,” said Evan.
Playing with heavy hearts, Landon and his teammates have continued to suit up, with an unexpected added touch.
Every Parry McCluer helmet this season has a Carolina blue-colored “15″ sticker.
Fifteen, being Eric’s number when he played for Parry McCluer.
On seeing all those helmets for the first time, Landon said, “It just showed that the football team really cares for me and that uh, I don’t even know. Just they really care for me and that the community is there for me,” said Landon.
With unwavering support, Landon keeps in mind a simple motto his dad would always say, “do what you can, while you can.”
“I have to do it for him and I wouldn’t be this good if it wasn’t for him,” said Landon.