COLUMBIA — Brady Wulff, a senior goalkeeper for the Rock Bridge soccer team, doesn’t let anything get in the way of success. Not even a metal rod in his leg.
The summer before Wulff’s sophomore year, he was playing in the USA Cup for an under-18 club team as a 15-year-old. His team was playing against Sweden in the U-19 division. Wulff was in goal, and in the second half went out in a one-on-one situation against a much bigger player, resulting in an injury that would keep him out for the entire upcoming season.
“I’ve never broken a bone before,” Wulff said. "At first all I felt was overwhelming pain, and I figured it was broken. But after the pain died down, all I could think about was how I will probably have to sit out the whole season and watch from the bench."
Since it was such a bad break, Wulff had to get a metal rod put in his leg to prevent him from breaking the bone again. The rod is about the length of his shin.
“I can get the rod taken out at any time, but I plan on playing soccer till I die, so I don’t see any point in taking it out,” Wulff said. "So I’ll probably leave it in forever.”
Wulff said he can feel the rod sometimes if he tweaks his ankle. He also has to carry a special card from his doctor when travels because the rod will set off metal detectors at airports.
After playing goalkeeper for the Bruins' C team and junior varsity as a freshman, there were high hopes for Wulff for his sophomore year. Until he got injured.
“He was in line to at least vie for the starting varsity goalkeeping position, or at least going to be our starter,” Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said. “I know it was devastating to him because he worked hard all summer to get back for his sophomore year.”
Because of the broken bone, Wulff was kept out, but he said the constant support from family, teammates and coaches kept him going. Although he couldn’t participate on the field, Wulff was still an involved member of the team, attending every practice and acting as team manager.
Wulff came back motivated for his junior year and earned All-District and All-Region honors.
“He struggled at times, especially early on,” Austin said. “He had to adjust to the speed of the game, let in a few goals that at this point I would never expect to be let in, but as the season got going, he kept getting stronger and stronger and was playing at his best, if not the best goalie in the area.”
Wulff said he had few doubts about getting back on the field once he was allowed to play.
“Soccer is my life, and there is no way I was going to let an injury stop me,” Wulff said. “At one point I was told I might not be able to play again, but we kept working it, and I got cleared to play in January.”
For Wulff, the biggest obstacle was getting his confidence back. He said he found he was second-guessing himself early on.
“My biggest motivation was getting back on the horse. Soccer is such a big part of my life, and it really ate me up that I couldn’t play. I felt like I let my team down,” Wulff said. “My injury still restricts me, but it’s made me more of an aggressive player. I now have the mentality of knowing that I could get hurt any time, and I never know when my last game can be.”
Wulff seems to be having an even more successful season as a senior.
“Brady makes every single save you expect any goalie to make, then he also makes those one or two special saves that are a sign of a great goalkeeper,” Austin said. “He takes pride in everything he does and is such a perfectionist that sometimes you have to remind him that he is a goalie and every once in a while a goal will go in.”