The much-anticipated Liberty Pro Day was held yesterday, featuring quarterback Malik Willis, and the prospective first-round draft pick did everything one would think he had to do to secure his place in the ranks next month—short of running the 40, which he was confident he didn’t need to prove because nobody needed it proven that he was fast.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Carolina Panthers were, by far, the two teams most represented down there, which is significant, because Liberty is not big on the circuit. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin goes to a lot of Pro Days, but he prioritizes the bigger schools. Pittsburgh sent the house to see Willis.
“I got to chop it up with a lot of people”, the young quarterback told reporters yesterday when he was asked about the significant amount of NFL representation that came out primarily to see him. “I feel like that’s a blessing in itself, just these high-profile guys wanting just to talk to me, and be here to watch me and my teammates do what we do”.
Willis is obviously the main attraction, but he said that one of the reasons he didn’t do much at the NFL Scouting Combine last month was to get people to come here and see him, which means they’ll get to see his teammates as well. And they got about four times the turnout they normally do, so, mission accomplished.
But nobody gave him more attention than did the Steelers, which included Tomlin taking him out to dinner the night before to try to get to know him. Of course, he was attached to Willis’ hip when at all possible at the Pro Day yesterday, as well. Both seemed to enjoy their experience.
“It was cool. He’s a normal dude. That’s what you want”, Willis said of getting to know Tomlin. “He was a normal dude, eating his chicken wings over there, and I’m like, ‘Mike Tomlin eats chicken wings?!’. I felt like that was cool, too”.
You’ve probably seen the videos by now of Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert watching Willis throw and the big grins on their faces. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that he is their clear number one quarterback on their board this year—and that they probably really want to go get him.
But a month out of the draft, it’s still a bit of a mystery exactly where he will wind up. The general trend has been his stock rising, and yesterday will probably only push that even further. It may be that they would have to move up into the top 10 in order to draft him.
If you’re reading this, then you already know the Steelers’ quarterback situation, so I’m not going to waste the space rehashing it. Suffice it to say that nobody really thinks they have a franchise quarterback on the roster right now, but Willis could be in the right environment with time to develop.