Kenny Willekes lands on IR with leg injury sustained in practice


Alex McRae

Kenny Willekes lines up against Ohio State during the regular season. Credit: Alex McRae / WDBM

Carter Landis, General Assigment Reporter

EAST LANSING- The Minnesota Vikings have placed former Michigan State defensive lineman Kenny Willekes on the injured reserve list with a leg injury that he suffered in practice last Friday. While the severity of Willekes’ leg injury is unknown, it seems unlikely that the former Spartan’ defensive captain will suit up for Minnesota this season. 

Willekes was selected with the 225th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was one of two Spartan draft entries to be selected—the other being cornerback Josiah Scott—who was selected in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Willekes was reported to be turning out solid practices in training camp, and his chances of making the 53-man roster looked promising before the injury.

Willekes finished out his Spartan career with 229 career tackles, 51 tackles for loss, and 26 sacks. In his senior season, he played in all 13 games and led the team in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (16.5). He entered his senior year with expectations of being a first-round NFL Draft selection, but stagnant production raised a number of concerns from NFL scouts, which ultimately resulted in his draft stock plummeting a bit. 

One of the primary concerns at the time was that Willekes was dealing with a severe leg injury, a broken left fibula, which he suffered against Oregon in MSU’s 2018 Redbox Bowl loss. Instead of entering the draft, Willekes decided to rehab his leg injury and return to Michigan State for his senior season. Other concerns about Willikes included his mediocre size and middling athleticism. 

By the time his illustrious career had concluded, Willekes had set the all-time Spartan record for tackles for loss with 51; he was also named first-team All Big-Ten and the team MVP in 2018-19. Willekes was also named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2018 and made the All-American team twice.