GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Rockford native and reigning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year Kenny Willekes announced via twitter Tuesday he is returning to Michigan State for his senior season.
Willekes broke his left leg in the second half of Michigan State’s Redbox Bowl game against Oregon.
“It’s very disappointing to have to sit in the locker room and watch my teammates on TV,” Willekes told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “Having to watch my teammates battle out there without me and not be out there and be a part of it, it really hurt me and took a lot from me.”
Willekes was at NorthPointe Christian High School to be honored at halftime of the boys varsity basketball game.
“It means a lot to me. I learned a lot here at Northpointe Christian,” Willekes said. “It set the foundation for me growing up, how I am as a man, how I am as a person. I built a lot of lifelong relationships at this school, so just to come back here and be honored in front of my friends and my family is a cool thing.”
He finished the year with 78 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss and earned the conference’s top honor for a defensive lineman and will now have a chance to build on a career that started as a walk-on.
“A lot of it speaks to perseverance and hard work,” Willekes said, referring to his path to success. “I try to be a light to other people and encourage people to chase their dreams, work hard no matter what.”