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    April 29, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Former Liberty Flames standout quarterback Malik Willis became the ninth player in program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when the Tennessee Titans picked him in the third round, earlier tonight.

    Willis was the 86th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is the first Flame selected in the draft since wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden was taken in the fourth round in 2020 (142nd overall pick).

    With the selection tonight, Willis comes the second-highest NFL Draft pick in program history. The Flames’ top NFL Draft pick was Eric Green, who was selected in the first round (21st pick) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1990.

    Liberty’s other previous NFL Draft picks include Fred Banks (1985/Round 8/Cleveland Browns), Kelvin Edwards (1986/Round 4/New Orleans Saints), Richard Shelton (1989/Round 10/Denver Broncos), Eric Green (1990/Round 1/Pittsburgh Steelers), Donald Smith (1990/Round 10/Minnesota Vikings), Rashad Jennings (2009/Round 7/Jacksonville Jaguars), Walt Aikens (2014/Round 4/Miami Dolphins) and Gandy-Golden (2020/Round 4/Washington Redskins).

    Willis was the third player selected in this year’s NFL Draft by the Titans, following Roger McCreary (CB/Round 2/Auburn) and Nichols Petit-Frere (OT/Round 3/Ohio State).

    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).

    Liberty’s NFL Draft History
    Year – Player (Round/Team)
    1985 – Fred Banks (8th Round/Cleveland Browns)
    1986 – Kelvin Edwards (4th Round/New Orleans Saints)
    1989 – Richard Shelton (10th Round/Denver Broncos)
    1990- Eric Green (1st Round/Pittsburgh Steelers)
    1990 – Donald Smith (10th Round/Minnesota Vikings)
    2009 – Rashad Jennings (7th Round/Jacksonville Jaguars)
    2014 – Walt Aikens (4th Round/Miami Dolphins)
    2020 – Antonio Gandy-Golden (4th Round/Washington Redskins)
    2022 – Malik Willis (3rd Round/Tennessee Titans)