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Malik Willis named 2021 Dudley Award winner: First Liberty player to win the state honor

liberty malik willis
Malik Willis drops back to pass in the Flames’ 45-0 win over UMass. Photo courtesy Liberty Athletics.

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis has been named this year’s Dudley Award winner, which is given annually to the best college football player in Virginia.

Willis, Liberty’s first-ever Dudley Award winner, was the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the country in 2020. 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., also finished his first season under center for the Flames completing 170-of-265 passing attempts for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns. The quarterback was up for several national honors throughout the season, including the Davey O’Brien Award Quarterback Class of 2020 listing.

Willis helped guide Liberty to a season of “firsts” in 2020, including the team’s first-ever national ranking, first win over an ACC opponent, the best start in school history (8-0 to start 2020), first-ever win over a top-25 FBS program and back-to-back bowl game wins.

Douglas, a 2020 FWAA Freshman All-America team as a punt returner, finished the season ranked No. 9 in the country in punt return average (11.1 yards per return).

The native of Jacksonville, Fla., finished the year with 15 punt returns for 166 yards, including a 73-yard return for a touchdown against ULM on Oct. 10. Additionally, he ranked second on Liberty’s roster with 32 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns.

Liberty defeated a pair of ACC foes in Syracuse and in-state opponent Virginia Tech. The two wins made Liberty the first non-Power 5 team to post a pair of wins over ACC schools in the same season since Houston in 2015.

The Flames finished the season with a 10-1 record, tying the program’s record for wins in a season (Liberty finished the 2008 season with a 10-2 record).

Liberty finished the campaign ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the highest year-ending FBS rankings in school history.

Liberty capped off the 2020 season with a thrilling 37-34 overtime win over No. 9/11 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The win marked Liberty’s first-ever victory over a FBS top-25 ranked program.

With the Cure Bowl win over its former Big South rivals, Liberty became the second transitioning team in NCAA history to win consecutive bowl games during its first two full seasons at the FBS level.


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