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University of Florida ROTC Student Dies During Training Exercise

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A student in the University of Florida’s Air Force ROTC program died Thursday morning.

Landon Rogers played lacrosse and football at Eastside High School. (Courtesy of Ty Holder)
Landon Rogers played lacrosse and football at Eastside High School. (Courtesy of Ty Holder)

Landon Howard Rogers, a freshman exploratory major, was a member of Gainesville’s Eastside High School class of 2015, where the entire community mourned his loss Thursday, according to Joseph Hughes, Eastside band director.

He died Thursday at Percy Beard Track while working out with ROTC.

Howard Rogers, Landon’s father, said his son was looking forward to a training run with his ROTC peers Thursday, over a mile-long run — six laps around the track.

Landon wanted to beat his personal time.

He pushed himself.

On the fourth lap, he collapsed.

“I have no doubt that he was pushing himself as hard as he has ever pushed himself, trying to achieve a best time,” his father said.

ROTC members notified him that Landon had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital.

“My wife made it there before I did, and I was escorted into the family waiting room,” he said. “The physician told me he was deceased.”

Rogers said his family isn’t aware of any preexisting medical conditions that could have led to his son’s death.

“We were shocked,” he said. “We are grieving.”

Rogers played football and lacrosse while at Eastside and was named the “Ram of the Year” last year, Eastside’s Joseph Hughes said. He was a member of the school’s chorus and a tuba player.

“He’s one of the best people of any age that I’ve ever met. People who know him say he was the nicest person they’ve ever met,” Hughes said. “He was an outstanding athlete and a very strong musician. Anyone that knew him cared about him a lot.”

Rogers said his son always pushed himself in everything he did.

“Landon was a Christian. He sought God’s will for his life, whatever that would be,” he said. “He combined giftedness with such humility. He was a brilliant, compassionate and loving young man who had such an impact.”

Rogers encouraged his son to get involved with ROTC as a way to apply his talents, he said, just like Landon’s sister, Hannah, who is a sophomore at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

After college, Rogers said, Landon was planning to work in aerospace engineering and focus on rocket sciences. This was largely influenced by his love for the sciences as well as natural ability — including high grades and advanced placement at Eastside and at UF.

“Landon never made a B in high school,” Rogers said. “To go along with kindness and compassion, he was a fierce competitor. He would work as hard as he could on the athletic field to help his teammates. He always led by example and by the way he lived and played.”

“As his father, what I can tell you is that he was a dream son,” he said.

Vivian El-Salawy, a classmate and fellow band member, said Landon was one of the happiest people she’s known.

“I’ve known him since middle school and he always had a positive aurora or a smile on his face,” El-Salawy said. She’s a 19-year-old media studies sophomore at Florida State University and was a year ahead of Rogers at Eastside. “What set him apart from everyone else was he was so hardworking.”

El-Salawy was thinking today about how another, too similar tragedy that struck Eastside four years ago. Multi-sport athlete Sarah Landauer died during track and field practice in March 2011.

“Their personalities were very comparable in that they both served as role models in high school,” she said.

El-Salawy said the Rogers family has always shaped Eastside and the Gainesville community for the better.

“The Rogers family influences the entire community. Their family as a whole is an ideal family,” El-Salawy said.

About Zee Krstic

Zee is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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  • DebiRN

    One of the most amazing young men I’ve ever met. RIP Landon.

  • drmguinn

    The Rogers family is exceptional. They are giving compassionate people and it’s no surprise that their son Landon was so exceptional. I pray for his family, friends, coaches and staff at the University. It’s so difficult to deal with such a tragic loss of such a special person.

  • Alex Wilson

    May God be with his family through this hard moment. He is now home in the Kingdom of Heaven.