Willis Named Finalist for Bobby Bowden Trophy
Encompassing both his stellar play on the field and outstanding character off the gridiron, Liberty’s Malik Willis has been named a finalist for the Bobby Bowden Trophy.
The Bobby Bowden Trophy recognizes the college football playoff player who epitomizes a student-athlete of faith. The award winner must conduct himself as an exemplary model in the classroom, on the field, on campus and in the community.
Willis is one of three finalists for this year’s honor. He is joined on the list by Georgia kicker/punter Jake Camarda and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.
Willis had an award-winning season in 2021. The quarterback was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the Maxwell Award and a top 10 candidate for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
The native of Atlanta, Ga., was also on numerous national award watch lists: CFPA National Performer of the Year Award, Manning Award, Reese’s Senior Bowl, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl 2021-22 Preseason Big Board.
On Nov. 29, it was announced Willis accepted an invitation to play in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is considered the most prominent college football all-star game in the United States and is the first stage in the NFL Draft process.
Willis was Liberty’s top offensive threat, accounting for 65.9 percent of the Flames’ total offensive yards in 2021 (Team Yards: 5,671/Willis: 3,736 – Rush 878, Pass 2,857). Willis’ total offensive yards rank No. 2 in single-season program history.
On the season, Willis completed 207-of-339 passing attempts for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns. The redshirt junior was also Liberty’s leading rusher, having carried the ball 197 times for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Willis led the Flames to their third-straight bowl win when Liberty knocked off Eastern Michigan, 56-20, in the LendingTree Bowl on Dec. 18. Willis was named the game’s overall MVP after accounting for five touchdowns (two rushing; three passing) and 289 total offensive yards in the victory.
Willis finished the year ranked No. 8 in the country in points responsible for (242/18.6 per game), No. 18 in passing touchdowns (27), No. 20 total offense (287.7 yards per game), and No. 20 in passing yards per competition (13.83).
The Bobby Bowden Trophy award is named after former Florida State University head football coach Bobby Bowden. Bowden posted 411 career wins during his 44 years as head coaching, including 34 season at Florida State.
While at Florida State, Bowden guided the Seminoles to 14-straight top five finishes in the AP poll from 1987 to 2000. During this run, Florida State’s record was 152-18-1 and captured national championships in 1993 and 1999.
Bowden is the only coach to ever lead his team to 15 consecutive New Year’s Day bowl games (1991 – 2005) and his are tied for the most appearances in BCS bowl games with six. He is the only coach in NCAA history to win 11 consecutive bowl games (1985-95) and the only coach ever with 14 consecutive bowl appearances (1982-95) without a loss.
The winner of the 2021 Bobby Bowden Trophy will be announced on Friday, January 21. Last year’s award winner was Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
2021 Bobby Bowden Trophy Award Candidates
(Listed in alphabetical order by school):
Chris Owens, Alabama, Senior, Offensive Line
Jackson He, Arizona State, Junior, Running Back
Andre Harris, Jr., Arkansas State, Junior, Offensive Line
Nick Brahms, Auburn, Senior, Offensive Line
Kekaula Kaniho, Boise State, Senior, Defensive Back
Darien Rencher, Clemson, Senior, Running Back
Nate Landman, Colorado, Senior, Linebacker
Jake Bobo, Duke, Senior, Wide Receiver/Special Teams
Holton Ahlers, East Carolina, Senior, Quarterback
Zachary Carter, Florida, Senior, Defensive Line
Camren McDonald, Florida State, Junior, Tight End
Jake Camarda, Georgia, Senior, Punter
Hekili Keliiliki, Hawai’i, Junior, Running Back/Linebacker
Marcus Jones, Houston, Senior, Defensive Back/Special Teams
Michael Marchese, Illinois, Senior, Tight End
Kwamie Lassiter II, Kansas, Senior, Wide Receiver
Skylar Thompson, Kansas State, Senior, Quarterback
Sam Allan, Kent State, Senior, Offensive Line
Kenneth Horsey, Kentucky, Junior, Offensive Line
Malik Willis, Liberty, Junior, QB
Damone Clark, LSU, Senior, Linebacker
Alex Mollette, Marshall, Senior, Offensive Line
Preston Brady, Memphis, Senior, Long Snapper
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan, Senior, DE
Mac Brown, Mississippi, Senior, Punter
Austin Williams, Mississippi State, Senior, Wide Receiver
Isaiah Moore, NC State, Senior, Linebacker
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame, Senior, Defensive Line
Joe Spivak, Northwestern, Senior, Defensive Line
Larry Miller, Ohio State, Junior, Offensive Line
Caleb Kelly, Oklahoma, Senior, Linebacker
Jaydon Grant, Oregon State, Junior, Defensive Back
Sean Clifford, Penn State, Senior, Quarterback
Cal Adomitis, Pittsburgh, Senior, Long Snapper
Deslin Alexandre, Pittsburgh, Senior, Defensive Line
Set Small, Texas A&M, Senior, Kicker
Obinna Eze, TCU, Junior, Offensive Line
Nick Anderson, Tulane, Junior, Linebacker
Drake Jackson, USC, Senior, Linebacker
Matthew Butler, Tennessee, Senior, Defensive Line
Mika Tafua, Utah, Junior, Defensive Line
Race Porter, Washington, Senior, Punter
Elijah McAllister, Vanderbilt, Senior, Linebacker
Brock Hoffman, Virginia Tech, Junior, Offensive Line
Tyriq Hardimon, Wake Forest, Junior, Defensive Back
Evan Staley, West Virginia, Senior, Kicker
Mike Caliendo, Western Michigan, Senior, Offensive Line