Kyle Boutte thought his senior year on the Killeen Kangaroos football team was going to be a dream come true. But some bad luck turned it into a nightmare before it even began.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee forced Boutte to miss his first and only varsity football season in 2013. But the setback didn’t derail his dream.
Boutte came back and committed to play for Howard Payne University on Friday at the school’s gym during a signing ceremony.
“I’m excited because I didn’t get a chance to play my senior year and I’m actually getting a chance to play at the college level,” Boutte said.
Friday’s ceremony served as a culmination of many things: his senior year, a hectic week and a comeback.
Boutte was a quarterback on the Roos’ junior varsity football team in 2012 where he completed seven of 14 passes for 65 yards and was working toward a good season in 2013 with the varsity squad.
Then, during a track meet in the spring of 2013, his knee buckled in practice.
Boutte went to get his knee checked out when the doctors told him about the injuries. The torn ACL and meniscus were likely suffered during football season.
The news crushed Boutte.
“I was devastated,” Boutte said. “I really wanted to play my senior year. I never got to play varsity football until my senior year and not being able to play made it worse.”
He sat out the season and watched the Roos win three District 8-5A games, but those games weren’t enough. Killeen finished 3-7 overall, including a 3-4 district mark, and finished one game behind Copperas Cove for the fourth and final playoff spot in the district.
“I really thought he was going to be a vital part of our offense,” Killeen head football coach Sam Jones said.
Greg Russell has worked with Boutte a lot over the years as the head track coach and assistant on the football team.
Though Boutte would have come in without any previous varsity experience, his speed, work ethic and presence was missed on the football team in 2013.
“He would have done tremendous things for us in football,” Russell said. “If we had Kyle along with those other guys, I’m thinking we’d be in the playoffs.”
But the senior was going to be proactive when it came to getting cleared for track.
After having surgery in May, he rehabilitated the injury and worked to regain any speed lost from not working out and having his leg immobilized.
He was cleared to return to activities in January, just in time for track season.
“Through rehab, I was expecting to get cleared early so that motivated me,” Boutte said. “I thought I was going to play, but I didn’t. That made me work harder.”
Boutte got back on the track and teamed with DJ Lilley, Daniel McCants and Devyn Williams to make sure they had a place in Killeen High sports history.
The quartet worked all spring, continued to cut time and meshed together in the 400-meter relay during the postseason meets. The Roos posted a time of 41.82 seconds during the area meet and 41.20 in the regional meet.
But they saved their best for the biggest stage. Boutte, Lilly, McCants and Williams won the silver medal in the Class 5A boys 400 relay, finishing with a time of 40.69 seconds.
“I can’t be much happier,” Boutte said.
Six days later, Boutte was back at Killeen High alongside teammates Tyrese Taylor and David Temple as all three took part in a signing ceremony.
Jones said all three players worked hard to earn the opportunities to play football at the next level and was happy for Boutte, given what he went though.
“That’s what we say around here. If you work hard, good things will happen to you,” Jones said. “That’s what Kyle did. He kept getting better, kept working and he got a chance to run track.”
HPU is an NCAA Division III school in Brownwood that competes in the American Southwest Conference. The Yellow Jackets were 4-6 last season, including a 2-4 conference record.
And Boutte showed the same resolve during his rehab as he did trying to get recruited.
HPU was the only football team to offer Boutte a chance to play after he sent a JV highlight reel to the Yellow Jacket coaching staff.
In the fall, he will have a chance to suit up in a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time since 2012. Even if it’s just for a practice, Boutte has already shown the grit and determination worthy of two varsity seasons.
“It’s like any other game I played,” Boutte said. “I’m going to work my way through it all year.”