BC's Willis makes sudden impact
September, 29, 2013
By Jack McCluskey | ESPNBoston.com
NEWTON, Mass. -- Whenever he’s asked about the young players he shares the running back meeting room with this season, Andre Williams can’t help but smile.
The senior clearly likes what he’s seen so far from Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis.
“I really like the two freshman running backs,” Williams said in an interview in the run-up to Saturday’s Florida State game. “Myles has really pretty feet. I think that in the coming years, he’s going to end up being a force.”
And while his contributions in BC’s 48-34 loss to the No. 8 Seminoles falls short of earning him the label of a force, Willis certainly made his presence known.
The Conyers, Ga., native finished with just three carries for 6 yards but added three catches for 65 yards, including a 52-yard catch-and-run for a TD, and two kick returns for 89 yards, including a 71-yarder to set up a scoring chance just after the half.
Asked after the game about the 5-foot-9, 187-pounder’s impact, Williams laughed.
“Myles is a really great kid,” the senior said. “He’s got sweet feet and he’s fast. So he really gave us a little boost when he got that wheel route for the touchdown.”
On first-and-10 from the BC 48, Florida State leading 38-20, Willis lined up behind fullback Jake Sinkovec in the backfield. Quarterback Chase Rettig faked the handoff, Willis running right and up the BC sideline as Rettig drew the defense’s attention to the left side of the field.
“All week in practice we ran that play and everybody told me it was going to be wide open,” Willis said. “So when we ran the play I was surprised that I was cool, I was numb. I ran through and made the fake, got outside and when the ball was in the air, I didn’t feel any extra emotions. I just knew to catch the ball and go score.
“I was prepared for it, I knew it was going to happen, so there was a play to be made.”
The freshman made the play, coolly bringing in Rettig’s pass, then beating Seminoles senior Lamarcus Joyner to the pylon for the score.
“That guy loves football and he’s really got juice,” coach Steve Addazio said of Willis. “He brings me up. He’s got that look in his eye. I’ve seen that look in guys before. He’s a competitive guy, he loves football and he’s got talent. And I think that’s certainly a bright spot that you’re seeing starting to emerge through special teams and into the offense.”
Emerging was actually almost an issue for Willis on Saturday, as the green kick returner found himself itching to bring back every ball kicked to him -- even when he was standing in the end zone.
On one kick, fellow returner David Dudeck actually got in front of Willis before he could take it out of the paint and reminded him to take a knee.
“He was telling me, ‘Don’t be selfish,’” Willis said of Dudeck’s intervention. “That’s what he kept telling me. When you’re back there, you want to go, you want to make an impact. But field position is the most important thing. I can’t be selfish and then the next thing you know we’re at the 15 with a long field.”
When Willis got a chance to make a return to kick off the third quarter, catching the kick from Roberto Aguayo at about the BC 5-yard line, he didn’t waste it. He broke one tackle and found a hole up the right side, streaming through the mass of would-be tacklers and entering a footrace for the end zone with Joyner.
The FSU defensive back won that race, pushing Willis out of bounds after he’d sprinted 71 yards.
“I knew things like that could really shift momentum,” Willis said. “I knew if there was a play to be made, I’ve got to step up and make it, the blocks were there and it was a great play.”
Unfortunately for BC, the offense wasn’t able to convert the great field position into a touchdown, instead settling for a 24-yard Nate Freese field goal.
But, Williams said, Willis’ explosive plays sent a clear message.
“Now we know that he’s a weapon back there,” he said.
The freshman said scoring his first career touchdown in a BC loss was bittersweet.
“Today I had to give more than I ever have, definitely didn’t have to give that much in high school,” he said. “So to have that production and be able to come out and make some plays and give all you’ve got and still come out with a loss, it really hurts.”
While he knows there’s a lot of work to be done, the true freshman already has come a long way. And based on his contributions Saturday and the opinions his teammates and coaches shared about him, the future seems bright.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.