Priest Willis chooses UCLA

Arizona Sports News online

All the questions and speculation around Priest Willis and where he’ll continue his football career at in college can now cease.

He’s a UCLA Bruin.

The former Marcos De Niza star had 39 schools from around the country who wanted him to come and play for them, but in the end, Willis went with his heart and chose the Bruins.

“I really felt at home at UCLA, I love the coaching staff, I love the atmosphere,” Willis said. “[There’s] great players on this team, [and] if you don’t see it, UCLA’s on the rise and I feel like we can win championships.”

Willis says he’ll major in business management. He also has a passion for sports broadcasting, so he’ll pursue both once he gets on campus.

“I feel comfortable in that part of my academic side,” Willis said. “I feel like that’s something I could be interested in over the years.”

One of those 39 schools was Arizona State, who actually made Willis’ top three – the other two being UCLA and LSU.

Willis said he was “really close” to picking the Sun Devils.

“It was a close race,” Willis said. “I respect ASU and the coaching staff, and the way they do things over there.”

Willis sees nothing but success in Arizona State’s future because of their strong coaching staff.

Willis’ former head coach Roy Lopez has no doubt that Willis is ready for the next level of football, because he already has the right intangibles in place.

“He’s ready to bloom,” Lopez said. “He has an upside to him [and] there’s no telling how good he can be.”

“He’s up for challenges, he’s up for proving people wrong that say he’s overrated or whatnot,” Lopez said. “He’s a big, talented young man.”

Lopez says Willis will play both cornerback and safety under defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin.

“He’s a big time corner,” Lopez said.

Lopez says using Willis in so many different positions at Marcos De Niza should serve him well once he gets started at UCLA.

“He’s just a great young man, and we’re pretty excited,” Lopez said.

Perhaps the biggest Priest Willis fan, other than his mother and his baby sister Malani, is his stepfather Mike Walker.

Walker has been with Willis on every step of this journey, and he says it’s a “bittersweet situation,” when talking about Willis’ decision.

“[He] picked a great school, a great coaching staff, great people to help him take that next step to becoming a man,” Walker said.

Walker said Willis leaned on him quite a bit during the process, but as it came down to the end, Walker said Willis “took the bull by the horns,” and made the decision for himself.

“Once he felt like he was able to do his own research and do his own thing, he made his decision,” Walker said.

Perhaps the most touching part of Walker and Willis’ relationship is the fact that, over time, as they continued to build their relationship, they became the best of friends. Walker even said that Willis has actually made him a better man.

Their relationship is strong, but it’s time for Willis to leave the nest and spread his wings, which seemed to hit Walker pretty hard when I asked him what the house will be like without his best friend.

“That’s gonna be tough,” Walker said.

Willis is a very religious young man, who believes that with God on his side, there’s nothing he can’t accomplish.

He’s also smart enough to know that there’s pitfalls that comes with being a football player, especially at a school like UCLA.

The temptations will come his way, but he has a way of escape when they do come.

“That’s easy, keep speaking to God, and if you don’t feel comfortable around it, I’m not gonna be around it,” Willis said. “I’m not gonna be any different, I’m still gonna be the same Priest, just a little [more] mature.”