When asking a group of people to define the word “brotherhood,” there could be several different responses. Some might answer for there to be a brotherhood, there has to be a blood relation. For some, brotherhood is a religious practice. For others, brotherhood is an unbreakable bond between people who were once strangers, but have shared experiences that connect them. It may not make sense to some, but to the Friendswood Junior High 8A football team, they live and breathe a brotherhood that blurs lines and stands in unison. When one brother falls, the others are there to pick him up, and that is precisely what they did when BrayLan Shelby was injured during a game on Oct. 23.
In their game against the undefeated Nolan Ryan Junior High Longhorns, the Mustangs were battling with a tied score when suddenly BrayLan had an opponent slide under his leg which caused him to go down.
“The first thought was it was a minor issue such as a sprained ankle,” Shannon Shelby, BrayLan’s dad, said. “But as I watched him as he fell back down when he tried to stand up, I noticed his leg was out of position. I wondered if he was in a lot of pain; he was crying.”
Wade Rendon, defensive coordinator, was on the sidelines to witness the injury up-close.
“Both [Parker Garcia, offensive coordinator, and I] went out to him and could immediately see it was a serious injury,” he said. “We motioned for his dad to come to the field and got another coach to call 911. Once the team realized the severity of the injury, they immediately gathered in a circle and prayed for him. They remained together in a tight group until the ambulance took BrayLan away.”
An ambulance arrived to take BrayLan to the hospital where he would later find out he had broken his fibula and tibia and dislocated his ankle. BrayLan’s mom TyNeshia was out of town on business when she got the call from her husband regarding her son’s injury but got to the hospital as soon as she could.
“When I arrived at the hospital early Wednesday morning and saw my baby, my heart sunk,” TyNeshia said. “It’s quite difficult to see your child hurt and know there isn’t anything you can do to make it better physically.”
Though they could not take away his injury, BrayLan’s teammates said they believed they could lift his spirits. They said they wanted to be there for their teammate, for their brother. The coaches, players and parents decided to visit BrayLan in the hospital the next day when he had surgery.
“It felt amazing when my teammates came to visit me,” BrayLan said. “The bond I have with them is very strong.”
The act did not only impact BrayLan but also touched the hearts of his parents.
“I was emotional — on the verge of tears, but couldn’t let the boys see me like that. There was so much love in the room with the young men and their parents; it was quite overwhelming,” TyNeshia said. “We recognized how they cared for our son. They kept coming in and it demonstrated their commitment to my son and the unity that exists within their team.”
“This shows the character of [BrayLan’s] teammates, and it also shows that this group of 8A players and coaches is like a family that looks out for and supports each other,” Rendon said.
Though BrayLan got to see his teammate’s love for him when they visited him in the hospital, he did not get to see how they played for him that night after he left in the ambulance.
“The boys are mentally tough, and know when they need to step up and handle business. We all said a quick prayer and some kind words about BrayLan before heading back out to the field after he was loaded in the ambulance,” Rendon said. “As we broke the huddle, the boys said, ‘Let’s do this for BrayLan.’ The very next play after breaking the huddle was a touchdown that broke the tie and gave us the victory.”
That victory sealed the Mustangs’ fate as District Champions, but they did not stop there. The following week on Oct. 30, the FJH 8A football team won the District Championship to end an undefeated season. Though he could not play, BrayLan was there on the sidelines cheering on his teammates just as they had cheered him on a week earlier.
The season may be over, but this is just the beginning of a nine-week-long recovery for BrayLan. He said though it will be tough, he feels confident about what is ahead.
“I’m feeling great about moving forward with physical therapy and I think my teammates will be there to help me get through it by encouraging me the whole way,” he said.
Rendon confirmed the coaches and team will be doing whatever they can to help BrayLan recover.
“We will be here whenever BrayLan needs us, for athletics or any other reason,” Rendon said. “Athletes get injured; it’s how you bounce back and overcome adversity that defines your character. We’ll make sure that he understands that.”
Those involved believe defining character will not be a challenge for these young men because they have already defined what it means to have a brotherhood.