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Rugby community supports Herriman teen after ‘freak’ field accident breaks neck

Mar 5, 2024, 11:30 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2024, 9:51 am

HERRIMAN —  The rugby community across the country is rallying together for a Herriman High teen who broke his neck during a tournament. The way fellow players are showing support, is blowing the teen and his family away.

As players got pumped on the field Tuesday evening, practice for the Herriman High School varsity rugby team wasn’t just about playing.

It was about the family they’d formed.

“It’s like a brotherhood,” said varsity player and Herriman High senior Eli McQueen.

But right now, the team is down one of their brothers, Rylan Southwick, after what the team described as a freak accident tackle at their last tournament in St. George a week and a half ago.

Eli saw the tackle and realized Rylan was still lying on the field after the other players moved away.

“I ran over to him and yeah, he told me that he couldn’t really move his head,” Eli recounted. Rylan at first was able to leave on his own, and his family took him to the hospital. Doctors quickly discovered he’d broken his neck, and sent him by medical airplane to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Rylan was hospitalized for about four days, and released with a neck brace and strict orders to limit movement.

Rylan Southwick broke his neck after a tackle, and was hospitalized for days (Ben Southwick)

Rylan Southwick broke his neck after a tackle, and was hospitalized for days (Ben Southwick)

While his team practiced Tuesday, Rylan sat on the couch at home, playing a video game as he rested up alone.

“They told me that recovery is… they don’t really know,” he said. “And just to see if I need surgery or not, and let’s go from there.”

Last Friday, Rylan got a surprise visit from his entire team. A video taken by the coach shows everyone lined up and standing in the room all around him.

“They’re supposed to have their team dinner, but instead they came and did this for me, brought some gifts and stuff like that,” he explained.

It made Rylan feel supported and loved.

“You’re not alone. That’s far the biggest one,” Rylan said, of what it made him feel. “Everyone will help you out.”

Other Rugby teams, hearing the news, have been sending team swag and well wishes to the Southwick home. Rylan received clothing from the BYU and University of Utah Rugby teams, plus the Utah Warriors Rugby team. High school and college teams in other parts of the country have also reached out.

Rylan’s team signed a rugby ball with messages like “heal quick,” and “get well,” and “love you buddy.”

Ben and Rylan Southwick look at a rugby ball signed with well wishes (KSL TV)

Ben and Rylan Southwick look at a rugby ball signed with well wishes (KSL TV)

It’s lifting Rylan’s spirits.

“I’m very grateful,” he said, with a smile.

“It’s gone everywhere,” said Ben Southwick, Rylan’s dad. “There’s been people across the nation reaching out, saying, ‘We’re praying for you and we really love you.'”

Family friends set up a GoFundMe* to support Rylan’s family with medical expenses, including the medical flight.

One show of support that Rylan hasn’t even seen in person yet, was very visible at practice Tuesday.

The team came up with a fun way to bring Rylan onto the field at their next game this weekend.

“We end up bleaching all of our hair,” explained Eli McQueen, who is now sporting blonde locks.

Senior Matthew Jenkins said he wanted to show Rylan that he’s still part of the team.

“I hope he laughs, actually,” Matthew said. “I hope he thinks it’s funny.”

Logan Reagan, a senior, said he even cut his hair short to mirror Rylan’s look.

“We wanted every possible way to show him that, even though he’s on the sideline now– probably will be for a lot of the season– We still love him. We still care about him,” Logan said.

The boys proving that rugby is all about brotherhood, no matter what happens on the field.

“I know this rugby community is amazing,” Rylan said. “I love it here.”

The Herriman High rugby team has bleached their hair blonde as a way to bring Rylan onto the field for their game this Saturday (KSL TV)

The Herriman High rugby team has bleached their hair blonde as a way to bring Rylan onto the field for their game this Saturday (KSL TV)


*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Rugby community supports Herriman teen after ‘freak’ field accident breaks neck