Relegated to the sofa most Sunday afternoons thanks to a knee injury that knocked out his entire senior football season at Park Center, Rufus Saylee found some motivation on the television.
Pegged as a legitimate FCS college football recruit following his junior season, an awkward tumble during a pick-up basketball game in May resulted in a torn knee ligament.
Slowly, the recruiting letters and phone calls started to slow down. Saylee, however, never doubted his ability to recover. And he would be reminded why nearly every Sunday the Minnesota Vikings played.
“I just watched [Adrian Peterson] work, every game,” said Saylee. “Watching him run like that gave me the confidence. He was doing it at the highest level and was running like that. It gave me that much more confidence that I could do the same.”
His diligence in the recovery process never wavered, and as a result, he will be playing college football.
Saylee signed a National Letter of Intent Feb. 8 to play Division II football for Bemidji State University in the fall.
He’ll play defensive back, where his size (6-foot, 180-pounds) is sure to give him an advantage. His heart will likely do the same.
“I never quit believing,” Saylee said. “When I found out I couldn’t play as a senior, I cried. It was the worst day of my life. But I never stopped working, and it worked out in the end.”
Saylee said he felt a special connection to Bemidji State from the start. One of the first schools to contact him about playing at the next level, they were one of the few that never left after news came out of his knee injury.
With the help of Park Center athletic trainer Dan Miller, Saylee attacked his rehabilitation with the same vigor he played with.
Last Friday, surrounded by friends, family teachers and administrators, he was rewarded.
“I owe so much to everybody in this room,” said told he group. “Love someone that loves you. You all showed me love, and I love all of you for it.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org