Laredo Sports Medicine Clinic is proud to announce our spotlight athlete for August 2015…Wayo Gonzalez! Wayo’s story is one of strength, survival, triumph, and resilience. Athletes are often so loved that fans forget they are human. Then, adversity strikes and their supporters seem to remember that an athlete can suffer from the same problems everyone else can face. In Wayo’s case, he suffered from catastrophic injuries, but it is how he beat the odds that those closest to him say he has proven over and over what a champion he really is.
It is known that when a person finds their passion, their life synonymously begins revolving around that passion. Wayo has had a love of soccer since as long as he can remember. He recalls playing soccer as early as his elementary school years, where he and his friends would play during their lunch break. Since then, he has been inseparable with the game of soccer.
Wayo would continue to play soccer throughout his elementary and middle school years; his urge to become a better player growing each year. Always an outgoing and charismatic individual, Wayo had a lot of friends and an ever-growing support system, which urged him to keep at the game of soccer and fueled his desire to play and remain unstoppable.
In 2004, Wayo started attending St. Augustine. A young 8th grader, he was eager to join their soccer team, only to learn that St. Augustine had not yet established a soccer team. Wayo was distraught and saddened, but practiced after school on his own. He would later learn through some of his friends that Alexander High School had a soccer team. His friends constantly encouraged Wayo to switch schools to join the team.
Finally convinced, Wayo made the transition to Alexander High School during the middle of his freshman year at St. Augustine. He immediately felt a sense of completion after joining the Alexander varsity soccer team as their forward position. Wayo remained diligent and focused as a member of his high school soccer team and received various recognitions for scoring the most goals at soccer games.
During his junior year at Alexander, Wayo decided to expand his emerging sports career even further by joining forces with Laredo’s soccer team, the Laredo Heat. To test the waters, he started off in the youth team and did so well that during his senior year, he was promoted to join the semi-professional team. Wayo would continue to be play successfully with the Laredo Heat for the next five years. His local fan base never waivered, staying by his side through it all.
He was on top of the world as more people started knowing his name. His support system was expanding even more: family, friends, classmates, and teachers. Wayo had become a household name. In 2009, Wayo began college at Texas A & M International University where he is currently working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. When he is not hitting the books, Wayo devotes part of his time as a member of the TAMIU soccer team.
Things seemed to be on a good track for Wayo, both in his academic and sports career, until last winter when a sudden twist of fate occurred that almost ended his life. While traveling down Loop 20, Wayo was involved in a head-on collision with a truck. Due to the severity of the impact, Wayo suffered a broken jaw, broken right leg, and extensive brain damage. Local hospitals suggested flying him to San Antonio so that he could get proper care for his brain damage. After assessing Wayo’s condition, the doctors delivered some devastating news to his family: he would need a lot of hospital care and would most likely remain in the hospital for months to come.
Wayo was placed in a medically induced coma for two days and had multiple surgeries to repair his injuries. When he awoke from his coma, Wayo began having 3-4 second flashbacks of the accident, impacting him deeply, yet he never backed down. Wayo persevered, eager to return home. He largely credits his fast recovery to the tremendous outpouring of support he received from the Laredo community. Wayo estimates that during his short stay in the hospital, he received over 500 visits from people who supported him. Each person brought Wayo another ounce of hope and strength, easing his recovery time and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Doctors were astounded at the large crowds that gathered to pay Wayo a visit and even shared with Wayo that no patient at that hospital had ever received so many visits.
In addition to the visits he received at the hospital, he also had a large support system on social media. Thousands of people shared their well wishes for Wayo on Facebook and created the popular hashtag #FuerzaWayo, giving him something to look forward to reading every day. Doctors had estimated he would stay hospitalized for months, but Wayo was able to return home in only a few short weeks. He is a firm believer that this is because of the support he received in person and on social media and is eternally grateful.
Once Wayo was back home, he would be faced with some setbacks before being able to return to the soccer field. Doctors informed him that he would need a lot of physical therapy to help him regain the strength in his legs. Wayo found himself in the hands of Ida Gutierrez at the LSMC South Laredo Clinic. For three months, Ida and her team helped Wayo regain his strength through the power of physical therapy.
Today, Wayo finds himself almost fully recovered. Although he has been cleared to return to the soccer field, Wayo is taking it slow since one of the tendons in his knee is still swollen. In the mean time, Wayo attends the gym regularly to build up his energy and ensure he’s in excellent shape once he hits the field with the TAMIU soccer team once again in the upcoming months.
Wayo’s expected graduation date is May of 2016. After graduation, his ultimate goal is to pursue soccer professionally. He also has the desire to coach high school soccer here in Laredo. He is passionate about giving back to the community who took him under their wing when he was at his lowest.
Inspired by his favorite soccer player, Lionel Messi, his famous saying resonates within Wayo,
“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.”
In the end, Wayo’s tenacity is evident both on and off the soccer field. We stand beside him as he continues his successful path towards recovery and can’t wait to see him back in the game! Fuerza Wayo!
LSMC congratulates and is proud to recognize Wayo Gonzalez as August’s Spotlight Athlete!