Liberty quarterback Malik Willis will leave the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis as perhaps the biggest winner of all the players who participated.
Where it once seemed all but certain that Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett was going to be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft in late April, Willis’ dynamic performance at the Combine has thrust him into the conversation about what will happen when the Carolina Panthers will make their selection at No. 6 overall.
But even though Willis made a strong impression with his arm and his mind, it was his heart that caught everyone’s attention, especially because it was for something that happened outside of the Lucas Oil stadium that Willis thought no one was watching.
Willis achieved the best completion of the whole weekend by helping a homeless woman
One of the great advantages for players who participate in the Combine is the endless supply of loot from major sportswear manufacturers, like Nike. Players get all kinds of training t-shirts and apparel and other items, enough to fill a suitcase.
And that’s how Willis was heading to the Nike suite Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center when he came across a pregnant homeless woman and her son. Willis’ first instinct was to give the woman some change, but he had no money on him. So the ever resourceful quarterback came up with a different plan.
“I walked past her on the way to the Nike suite and cut it with them and walked out with a suitcase and so on. And I felt bad because I saw his son. She was a pregnant woman and she was homeless,” Willis told NFL Network. “And I was just like, ‘Shoot, I don’t have any money, but I can give you some shirts.’
Willis’ simple act of kindness and humanity goes viral and touches everyone who watches it
What Willis didn’t realize was that a man named Ryan Lacey was across the street and noticed Willis giving the woman the clothes from the suitcase. He filmed the scene and tweeted it.
“I was having lunch yesterday and saw one of the guys from Combine helping someone through a tough time,” Lacey wrote. “@malikwillis be awesome even when no one is watching. How not to be a fan of this guy?
Within hours, it exploded on social media.
Media representatives ranging from CNN to NBC Sports Boston asked Lacey for permission to use the clip on their sites. Twitter influencer and former NBA star Rex Chapman retweeted it, as did nearly 7,500 accounts over the weekend.
The viral video had been viewed nearly 2.5 million times by Thursday evening.
“I just felt like I had to do this,” Willis told NFL Network. “I mean, I’m at a position right now where I don’t worry about much except getting better. So if I can help her in any way, I felt obligated to do so.
Willis’ on-field performance was equally impressive and likely improved his draft prospects
Pickett entered the Combine as the quarterback was touted as the most NFL-ready in a slim 2022 class, compared to last season’s free-for-all quarterback in the first round.
But Willis became the quarterback’s true best prospect, and he did just about everything right during his time at the Combine, from putting on a dazzling throwing clinic to posting an impressive understanding of attacking plans that have come out in interviews.
But it was the character test that Willis passed with aplomb. Teams can watch all the tapes from the 40-yard dashes and cone drills to gauge game skill. But one tape no one expected to see was measuring the size of Willis’ heart. And that could be the thing that tips the scales in his favor on draft night.
Statistics courtesy of Professional Football Reference
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