Michigan State Spartans fans hoping to see fan favorite Kenny Willekes make a name for himself in the NFL will have to wait a while longer. The Minnesota Vikings, the team that drafted Willekes in the seventh round out of MSU in April, has placed the rookie defensive end on the injured reserve list with a leg injury.
The #Vikings have placed DE Kenny Willekes on IR and waived RB Tony Brooks-James, LB Jordan Fehr, DE Stacy Keely and DE Anthony Zettel.— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 2, 2020
For a player to be eligible for IR-designated for return (meaning able to play at some point in the 2020 campaign), a player must be placed on the IR list after the 53-man roster cut down deadline, which is this Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Unfortunately, since Minnesota made this roster move prior to then, Willekes will be forced to miss his entire rookie season, but he will remain with the Vikings for the season.
However, Willekes may have suffered a torn ACL, according to Heavy.com, which would mean he had no chance to return in 2020 anyway. Willekes has now had his fair share of leg injuries. The Spartans stand out defensive end broke his left fibula in the 2018 Redbox Bowl. He fully recovered and was able to play in all 13 games for MSU as a senior, on his way to winning the Burlsworth Trophy (awarded to the nation’s best player who was a former walk-on), first-team All-Big Ten Honors and second-team Walter Camp All-American honors.
The Heavy article also notes that Willekes was impressing at training camp, but he had his work cut off for him to make the 53-man roster, as the Vikings boast a lot of depth across the defensive line. The team also just traded the Jacksonville Jaguars for pass-rushing menace Yannick Ngakoue (tear from me), who figures to start immediately in Minnesota.
Unfortunately, Willekes’ rookie year has ended before it truly even began. This is a setback for Michigan State’s all-time leader in tackles for loss, but if anybody has the determination and work ethic to bounce back from this, it is Willekes. We wish you a speedy recovery, Kenny!