Summer 2022

QB Malik Willis wows on, off field at NFL combine, says he plays for only God's approval

College football’s best have descended upon Indianapolis this week to showcase their abilities at the NFL scouting combine, and Liberty’s Malik Willis may have NFL scouts the most intrigued about his NFL potential.

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The electrifying 219-pound quarterback worked out for the scouts on Thursday, and turned many heads with his arm strength. He boasts foot speed too, but said he would only throw at the combine and not run, believing film of his game speaks for itself.

Willis may have impressed even more people, though, with a random act of kindness caught on video. He was unaware of anyone watching him while he gave some clothes he had received to a homeless woman on the street Thursday morning. But after Twitter user Ryan Lacey posted the video on Twitter, the media saw it and asked Willis about the gesture. The video had more than 3 million views as of 12 p.m. ET Friday.

“I walked past her on the way to the Nike suite and I chopped it up with them and I walked out with a suitcase and whatnot. And I felt bad because I saw her son. It was a pregnant lady and she was homeless. And I was just like, ‘Shoot, I don’t have no money, but I can give you a couple of shirts,’” Willis said on the NFL Network broadcast after his workout, according to the Associated Press. “… I mean, I’m at a position right now where I’m not worried about much of anything except getting better. So, if I can help her out any way, I felt like I had to.”

Willis helping others is not a surprise to those close to him, and whichever team drafts him in next month’s NFL draft will quickly see the character and humility Willis exhibits. He has long said he plays for an audience of One, and he reiterated that to the media this week at the combine.

“Somebody’s always going to think [you’re] trash,” Willis said. “That’s just the way the game goes. It is what it is. I’m going to just keep on going. I’m not playing for their approval. I’m playing for the only one approval I respect — God. I’m playing for an audience of One, and I don’t really care too much what he and she say.”

Willis is among a number of high-profile quarterbacks — like Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Ole Miss’s Matt Corral — in the mix for a high draft position in various mock drafts. And to think the 22-year-old Willis once thought his football career would end after college. But after he transferred from Auburn to Liberty in 2019, he flourished in coach Hugh Freeze’s offense and developed into an NFL-caliber quarterback.

It was also a time God used to bring Willis closer to Himself.

“It was the people [at Liberty], the opportunity (to play right away) and the ability to get closer to God,” Willis told Sports Spectrum when asked last fall why he chose Liberty. “I mean, I feel like we all are at different spaces in where we want to be with God, in our relationship with God, and that’s just the different paths of lives we take.

“But I felt like I needed to get closer to Him. And the people here definitely influenced that a lot and made it a part of what they were trying to do in order to get us closer to God, no matter where we are in our stage, to help us on our journey.”

Willis, who says “Glory to God” in his Twitter bio and “God’s Plan” in his Instagram bio, has not shied away from discussing his faith as his popularity has grown nationwide. At last month’s Senior Bowl, he spoke about his faith while being interviewed on the sideline during the game.

“That’s what I try to do with my platform,” Willis said, “is just influence people positively and let them know about God. … That’s what it’s about.”

 

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As he seeks to build up treasures in Heaven rather than on earth, Willis knows his purpose in life is not ultimately to be the first quarterback drafted or make the most money. As he said in Sports Spectrum Magazine, “You’re using the abilities that God gives you and go out there and glorify His name and try to spread the Gospel.”

The NFL scouting combine will conclude on Monday, while the draft is scheduled for April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

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