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 once it seemed almost 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 as to what will happen when the Carolina Panthers make their selection at No. 6 overall.
But as much as Willis made an impression with his arm and his mind, it was his heart that captured everyone’s attention, especially because it was for something that happened outside Lucas Oil Stadium that Willis thought no one was watching.
Willis made the best completion of the entire weekend by aiding a homeless woman
One of the great perks for players who participate in the Combine is the endless supply of swag from the big athletic clothing manufacturers, like Nike. Players get all varieties of t-shirts and workout clothes and other items, enough to fill a suitcase.
And so it was that Willis was heading to the Nike suite on Thursday at the Indianapolis Convention Center when he happened upon a pregnant homeless woman and her son. Willis’ first instinct was to give the woman some spare change, but he wasn’t carrying any money. So the always-resourceful quarterback hatched a different plan.
“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,” Willis told NFL Network. “And I was just like, ‘Shoot, I don’t have no money, but I can give you a couple of shirts.’
Willis’ simple act of kindness and humanity goes viral and touches all who watch 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 out of the suitcase. He filmed the scene and tweeted it out.
“Was having lunch yesterday and saw one of the Combine guys helping out someone on some hard time,” Lacey wrote. “@malikwillis being great even when nobody is watching. How can you not be a fan of this guy?
Within hours it exploded across social media.
Representatives from media outlets, ranging from CNN to NBC Sports Boston, asked Lacey for permission to use the clip on their sites. Noted Twitter influencer and former NBA star Rex Chapman re-tweeted it, as did nearly 7,500 accounts over the course of the weekend.
The viral video had been viewed nearly 2.5 million times as of Thursday night.
“I just felt like I had to do that, Willis told NFL Network. “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’ on-field performance was just as impressive and likely boosted his draft prospects
Pickett entered the Combine as the quarterback touted as being the most NFL-ready in a thin 2022 class, compared to last season’s quarterback free-for-all in the first round.
But Willis has emerged as the true top quarterback prospect, and he did just about everything right during his time at the Combine, from putting on a dazzling throwing clinic to displaying an impressive grasp of offensive schemes that came out in interviews.
But it was the character test that Willis passed with aplomb. Teams can look at all the tapes of 40-yard dashes and cone drills to measure the skills of the game. But one tape no one expected to see measured the size of Willis’ heart. And that could be the thing that tips the scales in his favor on draft night.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference