Malik Willis’ NFL career has begun as the Titans announced him as the 86th overall selection on Friday night in Las Vegas. Willis was the second quarterback selected in this year’s draft in what has widely been panned as a thin quarterback class.
Willis ranked No. 3 among FBS QBs in rushing yards in 2021 with 878 on 197 rushes. He was one of five FBS QBs to rank among the nation’s top 50 for both passing TDs (27) & rushing TDs (13) this past season.
Willis more or less rewrote Liberty football’s record books during his time with the Flames. He set new program records for Single-Game Rushing Yards by a QB (168), Single-Game Rushing TDs by a QB (4), Single-Game Passing TDs (6), Single-Game TDs Responsible For (7), Single-Season Rushing Yards by a QB (944), Single-Season Rushing TDs by a QB (14), and Single-Season TDs Responsible For (35).
Willis was also named the 2021 Bobby Bowden Trophy winner, which recognizes a college football player who “epitomizes a student-athlete of faith” by conducting himself as an exemplary model in the classroom, on the field, on campus and in the community.
.@LibertyFootball QB @malikwillis stopped to help someone in need at the Combine.— NFL (@NFL) March 3, 2022
Incredible moment from a potential first-round pick. ❤️ (via @rlacey23)
: #NFLCombine starting at 4pm ET on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/TdxMuBiHEj
Prior to Liberty, Willis spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Auburn, appearing in 15 games as a backup to Jarrett Stidham. He completed 11 passes on 14 attempts for 69 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also rushed for two touchdowns in his time at Auburn. In July of 2019, Willis transferred to Liberty and sat out the 2019 season, per the NCAA’s rules at the time. Willis was 17-6 as a starter in college, with all of his starts coming at Liberty.
The Georgia native has drawn comparisons to Baltimore Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson in terms of his play style. Both are obviously effective runners and have similar measurements with Willis being an inch shorter than Jackson and ten pounds heavier. Jackson ran a 4.34 40-yard dash in the buildup to the 2017 draft. Willis declined to run the 40-yard dash at the combine, but Willis was clocked at 20-plus mph at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in February.
Regardless of comparisons, Willis adds needed quarterback depth to Tennessee and could present a very high ceiling in the right system. How he fell all the way to the third round is somewhat astonishing, but here we are.