March 21, 2012

Willis is next at St. Ignatius

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

Few high school programs in the nation can boast the tradition that you will find at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The Wildcats have won 11 state football championships under legendary head coach Chuck Kyle and have sent dozens of players on to Division I college football programs. The next in the long line of outstanding prospects to come out of St. Ignatius appears to be class of 2014 defensive back Dameon Willis. The 6-foot, 195-pound safety prospect put up one of the better SPARQ scores at the Massillon Nike Combine on Saturday with a 74.40.

"I wasn't so much surprised but just really happy and satisfied that my hard work paid off," said Willis of his performance. "My coaches were really helping me get ready for (the combine)."

Cracking the varsity lineup as a sophomore at St. Ignatius is very uncommon but Willis worked his way up to the varsity roster by the middle of the season.

"I played mostly JV but I got moved up before the playoffs," Willis said. "Mike Svetina taught me a lot about hard work and getting faster and to really hit the weight room and just really getting ready for next year. He saw that I have talent and that I could be the next big thing here, God willing."

Playing at a school with the tradition of St. Ignatius is a source of great pride for Willis and he hopes to continue to the strong tradition of outstanding student-athletes to come out of the program.

"It just means the world to me," he said. "I've been wanting to go there since like seventh grade and everyone is just really down to earth and humble. They make you understand that it's school first and sports second because after you leave the field or the court, all you're going to have is your education."

In order to prepare for a more expanded role for his junior season, Willis is working hard in the off-season with trainers, including a former Ohio State all-american.

"I'm currently working with Chris Gizzi and LeCharles Bentley for the Zone Ready camp," he explained. "(Bentley) is a great guy to listen to and learn from and he's definitely been there and it's great to get advice from him."

With rising junior prospects like Willis and Jimmy Byrne the future looks just as bright as ever at St. Ignatius and the two push each other both on and off the field.

"It feels great," he said. "It all comes from hard work, I call him 'D1' and we just work hard and we push each other in the weight room and on the field to stay focused and humble."

The recruiting process has yet to take off for Willis but when the time comes, there is one school he would definitely like to hear from.

"Most definitely The Ohio State," he said. "Anywhere in the Big Ten too, I'd like to stay close to home so getting an offer from any of the Big Ten schools would be great."

The Buckeyes signed tight end Blake Thomas out of St. Ignatius this past cycle and Willis says he has always followed the in-state program.

"One is just having my grandmother down there in Columbus," he explained. "Two is just the atmosphere whenever I go down there. Everyone is just all in to it and it's just a real humbling experience to just see how everyone gathers around the guys every Saturday morning."

As for his junior season, Willis' goals are simple.

"My goals are to be in the best shape possible, to get up to about 215-pounds, and to just never come off the field and be a workhorse," he said.


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