Brothers’ torn ACLs bring them closer together

Rayce Willett runs down an Iowa City High player in the season-opener.

Although injuries are not exactly a rarity in football, having the same injury happen to two brothers at the same time is an unfortunate twist that befell both senior Rylee Willett and his sophomore brother Rayce on the same day last summer at a Nebraska football camp when they both tore their ACLs. Both Willetts play linebacker.
Rylee tore his left ACL. He said it was caused by being exhausted and jumping in the air and landing with a straight leg, ultimately causing him to miss out on his junior year football season.
“It was very disappointing. I missed my junior year, making it so I only had one year to play varsity football,” Rylee said.
Rayce tore his ACL also from being exhausted and cutting quick. Since they were on different fields, it’s hard to know if they injured themselves at the exact same time, but the boys do know for sure that it happened within five minutes of each other.

Rayce and Rylee have always been extremely close, and it’s safe to say that the brothers are best friends. Therefore, it’s not surprising that throughout the recovery period, the two have stuck together.

“My brother being hurt with the same exact injury made me realize more than ever that God has a plan for us and this was part of it. We did everything together like we always do with anything else. We trained every day to get better,” Rylee said.

Rylee Willett fights off a band of Little Hawks while making his way to the ball carrier.

“We did all the therapy and workouts together. It was awesome that we could push each other, but it sucked we were hurt,” Rayce said.

The brothers worked hard to get back up to speed and put in lots of work during the off-season. By this past summer, both were ready to start a new football season. The two used their solid dynamic to lead the varsity linebacker squad.

During the East High game, things took a turn for the worse for Rayce. While chasing down the quarterback, he tore his other ACL. Now, as Rylee works hard on the defensive end, Rayce cheers the team on from the sidelines. He helps by telling players what they can’t see out on the field. Luckily, Rayce will be ready to go again in six months, and since he’s only a sophomore, he has two more seasons of varsity football to go.

To encourage his brother as he goes down the recovery path, Rylee remains Rayce’s rock.

“I mainly just remind him about what he has and keep him focused on coming back for two more years of high school football,” Rylee said.

As Rylee starts on his last leg (pardon the pun) of high school football, he hopes to move on to collegiate football.

“I love the sport and want to play it as long and go as far as I can,” Rylee said.

Though the brothers may never get to play football together again, being injured together taught them a very important lesson. Having a strong relationship with each other trumps the importance of varsity football.

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