Will Imhoff would love to play in the state championship for the Navasota Rattlers. As fate has it, that may be the only time he could play the rest of this year. Maybe.
Imhoff is the heart and soul of the Rattler defense and an unquestionable leader. He was named the district’s defensive MVP last year and was an Associated Press all-state selection. Imhoff broke two bones in his leg during the first quarter of Navasota’s 45-13 win over Lexington last Friday.
“I knew it was broken as soon as it happened,” Imhoff told The Examiner on Monday.
Imhoff said he remembers the play vividly. Lexington threw a screen pass to the running back, and a wide receiver went to block Imhoff.
“The running back was coming my direction, so I spun to my right and planted my foot to make the tackle,” Imhoff said. “One of their guys pushed one of our guys in the back, and he landed on my leg when my foot was planted.”
Rattler Stadium hushed in silence and players from both sides took knees as trainers, coaches and medical staff tended to Imhoff.
“It hit us hard when he didn’t get up fast,” senior receiver Solomon McGinty said.
Reason being is that Imhoff has always gotten up. Whether he got thrown from a bull or horse, or tossed through the air by a 300-pound lineman from Giddings or Tyler Chappell Hill, he always got up and never stopped. That’s what leaders do.
“He’s our heart and soul,” Navasota coach Lee Fedora said. “He’s a leader. He’s a kid who’s going to be here every day and he’s going to be pushing everybody. He’ll be back out here. He may not be on the field, but he’ll be on our kids letting them know what they need to do. He’ll be making sure they play hard.”
That began before he even left the field the other night. After getting raised into the cart to take him away, he shouted at the guys on the sideline.
“I was trying to get them fired up,” Imhoff said. “They had this look of shock about me, so I wanted them to go out there and win.”
Imhoff got his father, Frank Imhoff, to call the stadium every five minutes to get continuous updates.
At the time of Imhoff’s injury, Navasota, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, was in a funk and clinging to a 7-6 lead over 2A Lexington. Navasota recovered a fumble and turned the tide of the game.
“He’s the leader of our defense, so we just had to step it up for him and stay strong, because he’s going to stay strong for us,” said senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor, who came on strong to earn defensive player of the game honors. Minor was also an all-state selection in 2011, as was defensive end Jake Bauer, who said the team went out there and won it for Will.
“Pretty much, in the second half we all started playing for Will,” said Bauer, who returned a fumble 72 yards for his first career touchdown.
Imhoff had surgery on Saturday morning and left the hospital by Sunday afternoon. He said the “pain is not all intense” but there was lots of swelling and throbbing.
His physical therapy is goal-based, and his return to the field depends on how his body responds to the grueling work. He doesn’t plan to ride horses any time soon, but said he plans on playing baseball this spring.
“The doctor said the earliest I could possibly be back is about three months,” Imhoff said. That would mean he could possibly dress out if the top-ranked Rattlers make it to state at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
“This is my last season and I didn’t expect it to end so early,” he said. “I’m still going to get that senior experience, just not on the field.”
That is, unless the Rattlers pull off a magical season. You never know. For when there’s a Will, there’s a way.