The last image of Marian Central senior Tommy Waytula on a football field was unsettling, to say the least.
Waytula caught a pass late in the Hurricanes’ 42-27 loss to Montini in the IHSA Class 5A playoff quarterfinal game and was taken down along the sideline. Immediately, he motioned with his right hand, pointing to his grotesquely bent left elbow.
Waytula had suffered a dislocated elbow on the play. At first, no one could be sure how it would affect Waytula for his best sport, basketball. Here was a kid playing football for the first time, probably talked into coming out by his buddies because he is 6-foot-5, can run and has good hands, and perhaps he would be knocked out of his favorite sport.
Yet there was Waytula last week, about a month removed from a cringe-inducing sight, back on the court. His left arm is heavily wrapped and far from 100 percent useful, but he’s out there.
“I have a sleeve with a pad and a brace, and we tape that, then a sleeve,” said Waytula, who has about half the normal mobility in his arm.
Waytula is undergoing therapy and acupuncture to help heal the joint. It may require some surgery after the season, but at least he’s out there enjoying his senior season. Although sometimes rebounding is not so enjoyable.
“It gets pulled backward [in awkward positions] with other people,” he said.
Still, Waytula was thrilled at playing on the 11-1 football team that was a contender for the Class 5A state title until getting knocked out by Montini. He caught 23 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a different experience,” Waytula said. “I definitely don’t regret it. It was just the camaraderie on the team that was unbelievable.”
Marian is off to a rough start at 1-6, but Waytula is one of the few returning players with much experience from last season.
Hurricanes basketball coach Curtis Price admits he thought the worst when he saw Waytula get hurt.
“With any kid who gets injured, I’m going to feel sorry for them and want to see them safe,” Price said. “As [basketball] coach, I knew he was going to be a big piece, so I was concerned and trying to figure out what to do while he was out.
“He’s a very tough kid. It happened, what, five weeks ago? Something like that’s not going to go away tomorrow. Especially in their senior season, you don’t want to see any athlete not be able to play.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.