NFL Combine 2022: Malik Willis impressive on and off field as his draft stock continues to rise

Sports

Former Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis has been an interesting case this offseason. Liberty coach Hugh Freeze has been effusive in his praise of Willis’ character and play, and Willis himself has only helped his NFL Draft stock. At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Willis may have helped himself even further. And he did it when he thought no one was watching.

MORE: NFL Mock Draft 2022, 2-round edition: Projecting the top 64 picks heading into NFL Combine

A now-viral video showed Willis talking to a homeless woman before giving her his Combine gear. Willis appeared to be talking to her as he did it, and he didn’t seem to realize he was being filmed. In an interview with NFL Network afterward, Willis explained what was happening in the clip.

I feel like a lot of people are taking it and running with it. But 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 cause I seen her son. It was a pregnant lady and she was homeless. And I was just like, ‘Shoot, I don’t have no money, but I can give you a couple of shirts’. … So I just felt like I had to do that. I’m in a position right now where I’m not worried about much of anything except getting better. So if I could help her out in any way, I felt like I needed to.

Willis impressed on the field at the Combine as well. A highlight showed the 22-year-old quarterback ripping a throw from his own 10 to the 33 yard line on the other side of the field. While he participated in passing drills, Willis neglected to run at the Combine.

MORE: NFL Combine results tracker: Live updates, highlights, top performers from 2022 draft workouts

The former Flames quarterback’s stock has been steadily rising since the Senior Bowl at the beginning of February. He had four carries for 54 yards for the American team and has been praised for his ability to run the ball. In Indianapolis, however, the focus has been on the cerebral side.

Per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, “Willis has continued to blow away coaches and executives during his meetings, which was also the case at the Senior Bowl.”

In a draft that is clearly missing a can’t-miss quarterback prospect, Willis is checking off a lot of boxes for a lot of teams. While he is relatively small for an NFL quarterback — he stands at just a hair over 6 feet and he’s 219 pounds — his impressive college numbers speak for themselves. The biggest knock again him, of course, is the competition level Liberty faces compared with other major schools.

Willis is a quarterback who has a lot of upside, but he’s clearly not a complete Day 1 starter. While a team such as the Lions may not take a swing at him with the No. 2 pick, it’s entirely possible that he ends up in the top 20 or even top 15 in this class. The first domino to fall is likely Kenny Pickett, although don’t rule out the potential for Willis to leap-frog Pickett somewhere in the process. If Pickett is off the board first, there may a scramble to land Willis in this shallow draft class for quarterbacks. Willis, thus far, has done everything in his power to reinforce that thinking.

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