Summer 2024

Despite falling in NFL draft, new Titans QB Malik Willis aims to 'spread the glory of God'

It came much later than many expected, but for former Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, it is still a dream come true.

Willis is headed to Tennessee after the Titans drafted him 86th overall during Friday’s Round 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. With the selection, Willis became the first player from Liberty to be drafted higher than the fourth round, and the school’s first QB ever drafted, after he captured the NFL’s attention during his electrifying two seasons with the Flames.

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A tearful Willis was engulfed by celebrating friends and family members, and Titans fans at the draft in Las Vegas erupted with a resounding cheer, as the pick was announced.

Soon thereafter, he took to Twitter to express his thankfulness to God:

He was later interviewed by Titans play-by-play announcer Mike Keith, who said it’s obvious that Willis plays with a lot of joy. So he asked Willis why he enjoys playing this game so much.

“I’m blessed to do it, man,” Willis said. “God’s put me in a position where I can use my platform to glorify Him and bring people closer to Him, and just give joy to other people. So I enjoy playing the game because I’m blessed with the abilities, so I get to go use what God blessed me with and impact other people and just make them happy.”

Toward the end of the interview, Willis was asked what he wanted Titans fans to know about him. He said, “I’m appreciative and I’m going to spread the glory of God, so y’all going to hear a lot of that.”

Willis is expected to begin his NFL career behind Tennessee’s current starter, Ryan Tannehill, who has led the Titans to two consecutive division titles and three consecutive playoff appearances in his three seasons with the team, including an appearance in the 2019 AFC championship game.

Now they add Willis, a dual-threat playmaker who posted consecutive seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes and 13 or more rushing touchdowns. He was widely regarded as having the strongest throwing arm and the highest ceiling among the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.

Despite being on site in Vegas at the draft, and given a space in the green room, Willis didn’t let his wait while 85 other names were read dishearten him. He even had a little fun with it:

In addition to his humor, Willis made sure he didn’t forget Who truly deserves all the glory and honor, regardless of life’s circumstances:

The newest Titan also took to Twitter before Round 1 began on Thursday to thank God.

Willis’ college career began at Auburn in 2017, but after seeing minimal playing time, he transferred to Liberty. There, at one of the largest evangelical Christian schools in the world, and as his football ability continued to grow by leaps and bounds, his faith in Christ did too.

“As long as I work hard and lean on my faith in God, everything else will fall into place as it should,” Willis wrote in 2019. “It took me a long time to bring myself to that sort of mindset. But without those struggles (in regard to the transfer), I would have never had a chance to earn this new opportunity.”

He continued later, “Maybe it was God’s way of forcing me to slow down and go back to the basics. Perhaps all of this was just His way of humbling me.”

By God’s grace, Willis never lost his sense of humility.

“People say I’m humble,” Willis told Sports Spectrum for the Fall 2021 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine, “but I don’t really know if it’s humble. It’s just very, very obedient, knowing that it’s not me at all.”

Willis grew to understand the impact God could have on the world through the talents God gave him.

“I just feel like He keeps beating it in my head: Just know how many people you influence, know what your impact does to people,” Willis said in the magazine. “I feel like that’s just a reiterating thing because I keep going to these places being a counselor (at high school quarterback showcases), and I’m impacting a lot of young people’s lives.”

Willis often acknowledges his faith on social media, frequently ending posts with “#TGFE” — Thank God For Everything.

Willis’ draft experience may not have happened exactly like he expected it to. Still, as he embarks on the latest leg of his football journey with the Titans, he knows that whatever comes his way — the blessings and the trials — his Heavenly Father will always be directing his steps.

“No matter how long we live, we will never know what God has going on for our lives,” Willis said in the magazine, “so we’ve just got to lean on Him — ask for wisdom and the strength to get through it. That’s what I ask for the most: wisdom and strength to get through it.”

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