“He's definitely that that dynamic-type athlete so it really hurt us, especially being at a small school, when you lose that one or a few athletes you have like that,” Brazos head football coach/athletic director Ryan Roecker said of graduated senior Jaylin Vela in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “But he showed – and this is one of the ways that you know that he's going to be successful – he showed that perseverance and determination.”
Not even five minutes into their penultimate regular-season and district contest, the Brazos Cougars’ do-it-all man Vela tore his MCL and was forced to miss the final district game and playoff game, as well as the rest of his senior seasons in basketball, baseball and track, but remained a leader on the bench.
“I was running and I planted my right foot down and then, I couldn't really see, but I guess one of the D-linemen hit me right in the side of the knee,” Vela said of the play he was injured on in a phone interview last Thursday afternoon. “(My teammates) were down a little bit, kind of worried but I told them they would be alright, just stay calm.”
The Cougars ended up clinching a playoff berth and extending a postseason streak to four years although the eventual state champion Refugio Bobcats eliminated Brazos in the bi-district round. 2019 was the second year in a row the Cougars’ season was ended by the state champions.
Despite only playing half of the district slate, Vela was still honored with first-team all-district distinction at both wide receiver and punter but also played quarterback and defensive back in his senior campaign.
“Missing out on, per se, half of district, and still coaches have enough respect for your game that they know had you been there, it would have been a different scenario,” Roecker said. “That's very impressive because that doesn't happen all over the place.”
Vela said he was proud of the recognition but understood the ceiling could have been much higher had he not been forced to miss the latter part of the season.
“I'm pretty glad, I'm pretty happy. I probably could have done a lot better had I not gotten hurt,” Vela said. “(Being on the sideline) was kind of down a little bit but I fought through it. I helped out a lot, especially with the lower classmen and told them to try their best all the time and to take care of themselves.”
Roecker said that voice was no quieter in basketball season where Vela was seen with the team every day.
“Came out for basketball season and basically knew that he wasn't going to get the play, but was at every practice, was at every game, sat there on the bench and tried to help the younger kids, gave his opinion almost like that student-coach type,” Roecker said. “When you go down and you're not getting a chance to be on the court and you're not getting your name in the paper, then you normally see the devotion wane but that was never the case with Jaylin. He was there from day one and he finished that way. That was very impressive and that goes as a testament to his character and to the character of his family and what they stand for.”
The rest of Vela’s hard work paid off at the socially distant outdoor graduation ceremony Brazos High School held at Cougar Stadium – the same field he showed his skills on so many times – last Friday night, May 27. However, it also leaves a void, Roecker said, with a gifted athlete leaving the hallways of a school he dominated at.
“You don't just replace it,” Roecker said of Vela’s athleticism. “That was obviously felt in football when he got injured and then felt in (the other seasons). When you're at a small school and you got a kid doing four or five sports and being one of the best at those sports … when your horse goes down, there’s no going to the next one.”
You can find more from these interviews in the next episode of The Sealy News Podcast releasing every Friday at 10 a.m. on major streaming sites as well as Anchor.FM/The-Sealy-News.