Malik Willis may be the first quarterback off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. He and Kenny Pickett have jockeyed for that title throughout draft season, and soon, fans will have an answer about which prospect will go first.
That said, don't write Willis off just because he went to a non-Power 5 school. He suited up for Liberty in each of the last two seasons, but the former three-star recruit generated interest from Power 5 programs during his recruitment in 2016.
Willis received offers from Virginia Tech and Auburn. He initially committed to the Hokies, but eventually wound up at Auburn for two seasons. He played a key role as Jarrett Stidham's backup, but ultimately decided to transfer before the 2019 season.
From there, Wi Alabama vs. Auburn Rivalry Shirts llis' career took off. Now, he stands to be a first-round pick — and a potential top-10 one, at that — in the 2022 NFL Draft.
But why did Willis leave Auburn, and what led him to Liberty? Here are the details of Willis' career-altering transfer.
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Why Malik Willis transferred from Auburn to Liberty
Willis initially transferred away from Auburn because he was unable to earn playing time. He was stuck behind Jarrett Stidham his two years with the Tigers and played sparingly. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown while running for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 28 ca College Lacrosse Shirts rries in that limited action.
Going into the 2019 season, Willis was NCAA Spirit shirt hopeful that he would get a chance to compete for the starting job. He played well during Auburn's spring game, completing 9 of 10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Despite that, then-coach Gus Malzahn told him he would not be considered for the starting job.
"I was like, 'Dang, like, no love?'" Willis told ESPN before the 2021 college football season. "After the game, [ Concordia University (IL) Cougars Jerseys Malzahn] said I did almost perfect. And then the next day, he was like, 'Uh, yeah, we're gonna have to slim down the competition.' This and that, and then I just took that, I was like, 'OK, I gotta leave.'"
Why was Auburn ready to move on from Cal Poly Pomona Broncos shirt Willis? For one, two freshman quarterbacks, Bo Nix (a true freshman) and Joey Gatewood (a redshirt) outperformed him in the spring game.
Second, Willis admitted that he wasn't exactly a film hound at Auburn. He knew the playbook, but he didn't know the finer points of the Auburn offense or opposing defenses. He believes that his lack of dedication in the film room led Malzahn to effectively disqualify him from the competition.
"[Malzahn] didn't have to [tell me]. I knew," Willis said of his film study habits, per NFL Network. "I was so immature. I had just played really well in the spring game, but I learned the hard way that the spring game doesn't matter. I decided after that meeting that I had to be better, but I needed to find somewhere else to play and find someone to help me get where I needed to go."
Willis changed his approach upon his transfer to Liberty. That helped him to improve, as Flames offensive coordinator Kent Austin detailed, but it took time as Willis simply wasn't used to the process.
"He transferred in and was completely receptive to watching film from Day 1," Austin said. "But for him, it wasn't so much about putting in more time. He had to learn how to watch film. What to look for and why. It's not just about logging hours."
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Why did Malik Willis go to Liberty?
Willis chose to go to Liberty for two reasons. First and foremost, he knew that he needed to be able to play at his next stop, wherever it may be. After all, he had just two years of eligibility remaining at the time of his transfer in 2019.
"I needed to be able to come somewhere to play," Willis told ESPN. "I said somewhere that had a need. That was all. I didn't really care about nothing else. It didn't matter where I had to go."
The other aspect of Willis' choice was rooted in his religious beliefs. He relied on his faith to guide him through the transfer process and remembered praying for a chance to play.
"I don't think there's nothing in life that I prayed for, that I didn't receive, in a way, Alaska Anchorage Seawolves shirt shape or form," Willis said. "He gonna give you what you need and He gonna give it to you on His time. There's nothing you can do about it — you just got to stay faithful.
"I remember, like literally being like, 'Please, like, can I just have an opportunity to go somewhere and show what I can do?' And then I just asked, constantly, 'Just let me glorify your name, however you want me to, let me use this platform.'"
Willis felt that Liberty — an Evangelical university — was a good fit for him. He also felt that he was given a sign that it was the right place. On the day of his visit, his daily Bible app d Creighton Bluejays shirt isplayed a verse t College Cold Weather Shirts hat he saw painted on the wall of Liberty's football facility.
"I'm like, 'Ain't no way. Ain't no way.' I ain't even tell nobody that," Willis said. "I just kind of like kept it to myself. But I knew r Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry Shirts ight then I was like, 'Yep, this the place I'm supposed to go.'"
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Malik Willis stats at Liberty
Willis acquitted himself well at Liberty and helped the Flames establish themselves as a full-time FBS Independent program. In his two years as a starter, Willis led Liberty to a 17-6 record. That included a 10-1 mark in 2020, though he missed one game during that season.
Below is a look at how Willis performed statistically season with the Flames.
|Year||Comp. %||Passing yards||Pass TDs||INTs||Rushing yards||Rush TDs|
Wil Daemen Wildcats shirt lis did more than put up solid numbers. His combination of a fantastic skillset, good personality and high football IQ left his coaches knowing that he would find success at the NFL level.
"It's genuine, it's real," Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said. "Nobody who knows Malik has any doubt that (NFL teams) are going to love him."