|J.J. Wills of Clovis High received his first scholarship pledge from the University of Idaho on Wedensday, June 24, after impressing the Vandal coaches at their one day camp in Moscow, ID (photo contributed).|
J.J. Wills traveled from Clovis, Calif., to Moscow, ID, with the hope that his wide receiving skills can haul in his first scholarship offer.
Wills will now come home from his airplane ride with his first pledge in his hands.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Class of 2016 wide receiver – who’s the son of former UCLA running back Shawn Wills – received offer No. 1 from the Vandals out of the Sun Belt Conference after he dazzled the coaches at their one day football camp held at the Moscow campus on June 24.
Wills, who led the 8-5 Cougars last season with 49 catches, 623 yards and 8 touchdowns, said that he was offered in person and can now let out a deep exhale.
“Their coaches are awesome. They were excited during and after the camp,” Wills said. “There are no words that describes the weight that’s been lifted off of me.”
Wills adds that he’s developed a bond with Vandals linebacker coach Eric Brown, who once played linebacker at Fresno State.
“Coach Brown has been very open with me about the process,” Wills said.
Wills had been clawing for his first offer since the winter of 2013. He started to attend different tournaments and camps during that time and hasn’t stopped since.
|Wills tries to maintain control of the football during a Feb. 2014 scrimmage at Atwater High School during the club 7-on-7 season (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).|
Wills has competed at Passing Down, the Pylon National 7-on-7 Tournament and took unofficial visits to Nevada, Fresno State, Eastern Washington, Portland State, Stanford and UCLA. Wills also participated at the Rivals Camp on May 10 and received an invite to the Nike Opening Regional held in Oakland on May 17.
He said that before he landed his first offer, there was a slight vexation on his end with when he would get his first pledge and who it would be from.
“There was a little,” Wills said. “But I had to focus on the things that I could control. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.”
Wills is a zone coverage nightmare at the revered Lamonica Stadium in Clovis. He locates open cracks in the secondary, sprints through that crevasse and then defeats his defenders through the deep pass.
Against man-to-man schemes, Wills has shown a quick plant-and-go which gets him blazing past a cornerback then turns upfield for the touchdown.
Wills first flew into Seattle with his family to attend the Idaho camp. They then took a rental car to Moscow so he can put his skills to work in front of the Vandal coaches.
Shawn, who graduated from Hanford High in 1988 then commenced to a career in both football and baseball at UCLA, said he got emotional when his son finally got what he’s been striving for.
“I’m excited. I actually teared up,” Shawn said. “He’s been working for this since he played for the Clovis Cowboys in the sixth grade. Now we see the fruit of the labor.”
The father knows the recruiting process well, since he was a star athlete during his prep career before getting recruited to Westwood. He said the percentage of players landing an athletic scholarship is small.
“A lot of good athletes don’t get scholarships. But the fact he got offered is exciting to me,” Shawn said.
Before the Vandals offered Wills with the opportunity to play in the Kibbie Dome, he was mainly hearing from UC Davis, Cal Poly, Fresno State, Nevada, Wyoming, Hawaii and some Ivy League schools about the possibility of continuing his education at those institutions while playing football.
Wills said he won’t be the only Cougar getting offered.
Stated Wills: “I know on Feb. 4 (National Signing Day), there’ll be more: Coltin Velasquez (wide receiver), Tanner Rice (linebacker) and Josh Hokit (running back/defensive back).”
He concluded that he doesn’t want to rush his decision.
“I’m not going to commit to anyone yet,” Wills said. “I want to talk to my parents and pray about it. But, I really like Idaho and I can see myself playing there.”