After last Saturday's scrimmage, sophomore running back Michael Alisa spoke with Iona Pritchard's father George and asked him for the hospital room number where Iona lied waiting to undergo surgery.
"He gave us the room number, and then after that I got all the guys together and we went over there,” said Alisa. “This was something that just didn't happen to just some teammate, this is an injury that happened to our brother. We are a brotherhood for real. When we talk about the band of brothers, this isn't just some nice cliché. We mean it."
Sure enough, some of Iona’s teammate rallied around him before he went under the knife.
"Well, right after the scrimmage we all showered up, ate lunch and then rushed over there," said Alisa. "So me, J.J Di Luigi, [Joshua] Juice Quezada, Ryan Folsom and Zed Mendenhall headed over there as fast as we can. It was just us players that wanted to go over to be with him."
"We wanted to show him that we were all with him, that this was something he wasn't going through alone,” said Quezada. “It's a tough thing for something like this to happen, so we wanted to show our support and let him know that we're with him."
Running back Bryan Kariya also made it a point to show his support for Iona.
"I wasn't able to go to the hospital at that time, but I did text him and let him know that I was supporting him," Kariya said. "I plan on going over there and being in constant contact with him because, you know, he's a running back and one of the family. He's such a good guy and we definitely want to make sure he's taken care of and that he knows we miss him and love him."
On the way over, the group quickly stopped at a convenience store to pick up a few get-well treats to help lift his spirits.
"Before we got there a few of the guys went and bought a bunch of Gatorades and candies for him," Alisa said with a smile. "He obviously couldn't eat or drink anything because he was just about to go into surgery.
"We joked about getting him some flowers but, you know, we're football players, so we felt that might not be the way to go. It was kind of funny though talking about getting some flowers for a tough guy like Iona."
As the players arrive at his hospital room, Iona’s whole family was there with him.
"We walked in and they just kind of cleared the room for us,” Alisa said about the Pritchard family. “It was kind of tough because we were all trying to smile and be happy, but you can't help but be down because of a big loss as one such as Iona. People don't really understand how big of an asset he was going to be to the team this year."
Seeing their efforts to hold a smile, it was Iona Pritchard that began doing the cheering up.
"We walk in there and this guy is all smiles," Alisa said. "He knows we're all down, so he starts cracking jokes and makes all of smile and feel better. He's the one that encouraged us and lets us know that everything is going to be okay. He had the best spirits out of all of us, and I respect the heck out of that. That's the kind of guy Iona Pritchard is and why I love him."
"We're hoping for a quick recovery because he has such a bright future," said Kariya. "He's such a talented kid and works really hard on top of it. He's just a beast and you hate seeing an injury like that on anybody, but you hate seeing it with somebody like Iona."
With his teammates huddled around him, Pritchard asked how their day went.
"We were there for maybe half an hour joking around," Alisa said. "We kind of huddled around him and he asked us how the scrimmage went and how each of us did individually. We were telling jokes like, 'Oh, so and so got cracked and his helmet flew!' and we were all laughing about it."
"The team loves Iona," Coach Mendenhall said. "The running backs went [to visit him], a lot of the coaches went independently, and it wasn't a coordinated effort, just to kind of show our support. He's an inspirational guy and a great leader for our team."