Cowboy Bandit Aimone Deals With More Than Football

Aug. 20, 2002

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -

Jon Aimone has had a lot to deal with in his own life recently.

The University of Wyoming senior bandit (defensive end/outside linebacker)has had a history of stingers in his neck that limited his playing time lastseason. When healthy, he has been one of the most tenacious defenders forthe Cowboys.

During spring drills, Aimone was voted as one of five team captains by histeammates. But at the same time, Aimone is one awkward hit away on his neckfrom never playing football again.

So between getting ready to play his senior season, hoping and trying tostay healthy and just the everyday life of being a college student, Aimonehad a lot on his plate.

But none of that pales in comparison to what occurred on March 13.Back home on the family ranch near Mountain View, Aimone's younger brother,Thomas, was out running in preparation for spring track at Mountain ViewHigh. While Thomas was running, he was hit by a car and suffered a serioushead injury. So serious that he wasn't expected to live.

A county sheriff and two track coaches from Mountain View High came and toldBruce and his son Matt, who were busy feeding cattle, that Thomas wasseriously injured and was being rushed to the hospital in nearby Evanston.

"Terror," said Bruce on what went through his mind when he found out aboutThomas. "To think that you may never see your kid alive again. It was pureterror."

But things would soon get worse for the Aimones.

"I decided I better hurry and get to Evanston and see what was going on andif I could do anything," Bruce recalled. "I didn't get but four miles fromthe house, was headed for the interstate and the off ramp was slick. Theyhadn't sanded it.

"I started sliding, I hit another vehicle, rolled the car and broke sixribs. Some of them I broke in two places on the left side."

Bruce spent 10 days in intensive care at the hospital in Evanston. Thomaswas in and out of a comma for nearly three weeks, and was eventuallylife-flighted to a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"I was in the emergency room in one room, and Thomas was in the emergencyroom in the other in the Evanston hospital," Bruce said. "My wife (Brenda)was there and asked what she should do. I said go to Salt Lake with Thomasbecause I knew I was going to be all right."

Meanwhile, back in Laramie, Jon was just getting started with spring drills.He was being held out of most of the contact drills so he wouldn't re-injurehis neck.

Then he received the news that sent his world upside down.

"Football was pushed to the back burner a bit," Jon said. "I had to dealwith my family first, and that's what my coaches told me to do."

When Thomas finally awoke from his comma, Jon was one of the first people hesaw.

"I just looked at Jon and said 'I'm not going to be able to play footballanymore,' " Thomas said.

Jon's neck condition is not life threatening even if he suffers anotherinjury. Football is very insignificant compared to his family, but betweenhis own problems and his family's, that's a lot for a 22-year-old young manto deal with.

"He showed a lot of maturity and he grew up a lot," said Bruce on how Jondealt with the situation. "He was a lot of help morally, and did quite a bitof work for us."

UW coach Vic Koenning was also impressed how Jon has handled all thisadversity.

"I think Jon is a special person," Koenning said. "Most guys may havestruggled more than Jon has. He's got a great family, a strong faith and he's a tough young man. Those three things factored into helping him getthrough this."

The good news is both Thomas and Bruce are on the road to recovery.

Even though doctors told Thomas he couldn't play football for at least fouror five years, he still should lead a normal life. Thomas is helping hishigh school football team this season, and said he plans to play basketballin the winter and run track in the spring.

His accident put Thomas back some in school, and he plans to repeat hissophomore year of high school.

Bruce said he's still a little sore, but is "hanging in there."

Bruce and Brenda plan to watch Jon's first game of the season Aug. 31against Tennessee in Nashville, Tenn. Bruce also said he hopes to get mostof his family to all of Jon's home games.

Thomas can't wait.

"I will probably cry the first time I see Jon play this season," he said. It's going to be really special."

Added Jon: "Football is something my family likes for me to do. At timesthey say football is just a game, but at the same time it's a way of life,too."