Liberty’s Willis, Johnson Named to Senior Bowl watch list

liberty basketballTwo of Liberty’s returning standout football players could have a chance to showcase their talents in February at one of the annual premier NFL scouting events.

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis and defensive end Durrell Johnson have been named to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is the nation’s most prestigious college all-star game, annually serving as the first step of the NFL Draft process. The Reese’s Senior Bowl had 106 total players drafted and 36 selected in the first three rounds the 2021 NFL Draft. The 106 figure represents 41 percent of the NFL Draft.

This year’s Senior Bowl game will be held February 5, 2022, and broadcast on the NFL Network. Practices will be live on ESPN and NFL Network hosts a daily recap show each evening in primetime.

Over the last several weeks, Willis has also been named to several preseason award watch lists: CFPA National Performer of the Year Award, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

Willis finished 2020 as the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the country. He led all FBS quarterbacks with 944 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Willis set school records in both statistical categories for a quarterback with his standout totals.

The native of Atlanta, Ga., finished his first season under center for the Flames completing 170-of-265 passing attempts for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Willis captured a series of honors during his first season on the field for the Flames in 2020. He was a Phil Steele Postseason All-America (honorable mention team member), Dudley Award winner (top player in Virginia as presented by the Richmond Times-Dispatch), Davey O’Brien Award Quarterback Class of 2020 member, VaSID Offensive Player of the Year and was named to several national honors watch lists (CFPA National Performer of the Year, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, and the Maxwell Award).

Willis led the Flames in total offense (3,204 yards), passing yards (2,260) and passing touchdowns (20) in 2020, while finished the year No. 7 in the country in rushing touchdowns and No. 16 in rushing yards.

This is the third preseason award watch list for Johnson. Johnson has also been included on the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists.

During his first season with the Flames, Johnson posted a team-leading 11.5 tackles for a loss (74 yards) and 8.5 sacks (65 yards). The junior college transfer ranked No. 28 in the country in sacks per game (0.77).

The native of Baltimore, Md., also finished 2020 with 38 tackles (25 solo, 13 assisted), fourth most on the team. He added six quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and an interception, helping Liberty rank No. 11 nationally in total defense (317.7 yards allowed per game).


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