Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Submit News | UPickEm Contest | Football Frenzy | Home RSS

PV’s Willis to pace Lakers

August 12, 2013
By RYAN DENTSCHEFF - Tribune Chronicle correspondent ( , Underthelights

ANDOVER - After going 4-6, Pymatuning Valley has high hopes of turning 2013 into a winning season. They have what PV coach Neal Croston describes as the strongest team in years. The Lakers' goal is to be physical running the football and stopping run.

The leader in that physical play will be J.T. Willis. The senior will be playing both sides of the ball at running back and inside linebacker. In 2012, Willis ran for 524 yards, second most on the team behind quarterback Quintin Ratiff. Willis is a back who doesn't want to run east and west - he wants to get up field and initiate contact.

"I like to cut it up field as soon as possible," Willis said. "I don't like running outside."

Article Photos

J.T. Willis

The coaching staff has worked this offseason to get the players stronger and more physical. Much of the offseason focus has been getting the team stronger in the weight room. Willis commented on how assistant coach Kevin Brown has been putting together workouts to help the get ready for the season.

"Coach Brown, he has a competition between the backs and the linemen," Willis said. "There's a lift-a-thon for max bench. Whoever got the higher weight all together, would get a steak dinner. ... But, that never happened."

Coach Croston recognizes the effort Willis has put into being successful and expects him to translate that hard work into successful play.

"He a good sized kid for us. He runs hard - he's a north-south runner," Croston said. "He's put the time in the weight room and we're expecting big things out of him."

Completing the theme, Willis's physical mentality translates well to the defensive side of the ball where he will be a senior leader at linebacker. The biggest struggle for the Lakers last season was stopping the run, and Willis's pertinent presence in the middle of the action will be essential to the Lakers having a successful season. Willis believes he is able to lead the defense and is ready to step into the role as captain.

"I'm very comfortable there (at linebacker)," Willis said. "I have to be the team captain on the defense and get everybody else in their spots. Just gotta be in the right spot at all times, read multiple keys and don't get beat."

Willis welcomes the added pressure of being the guy the players around him lean on.

"It makes me push myself harder to be a better captain and a better player," he said.

Something that makes Willis a good football player and leader is his dedication on and off the field. He not only is the most dedicated player in the weight room, as Croston described, but he is also dedicated in the classroom.

Willis has been contacted by Cornell University and Bucknell University and intends to play football and study computer sciences.

"He's definitely got a future in football," Croston said. "There's been contact with Ivy League type schools. He's got more than just football going for him I guess you could."


Article Poll