He has lived in four different states, but his love of the gridiron has always remained the same. Aaron Willis, one of the top youth football players in the country, recently spoke with Youth1.
“It’s (football) one of the ways to release my energy, express myself and give everything on the field,” Willis said.
Willis, 15, is an eighth grader at Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Midlothian, Va. In the fall he will be attending St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, however, his journey as a football player began eight years ago in Florida. His mother, Eliza Weathers is in the military, so he has never lived anywhere too long. He was raised in Texas, but first began playing football in Pinellas Park, Fla., at 7-years old. He often frequented a park, where he saw older kids playing football. Although he watched the Dallas Cowboys on TV, this was the first time he saw it up close.
While the children were a few years older than him, he was big and never afraid of a challenge. He eventually joined the Pee Wee Pop Warner Pinellas Park Tee Birds.
“I knew I had something in me that was different than other people,” he remarked.
He noted that unlike most kids he never played flag football. According to Willis, the flag football coaches told him it would be a waste of time for him to play because of his size. Willis explained that a few of the older players were tough on him, but the majority always wanted him to do his best.
When Willis was 9, his family moved to Rochester, N.Y., where he played briefly for the Webster Wildcats. In 2012 they relocated to Virginia where he has been ever since.
His football career took off in Virginia. He played on the offensive and defensive lines for the Evergreen Eagles for three years and in 2015 joined the Central Virginia Hurricanes, where he transitioned to linebacker due to a growth spurt.
“For me, I feel more at home at linebacker because I really like hitting,” he said.
In addition to the team facing stiff competition throughout the state and country, he credits his coaches for his improvement.
Defensive Coordinator Tae Mack taught him that “it’s not all about technique and finding the angels,” he said. He learned that football is much more mental than people think.
His natural instincts of knowing where the ball is always helps, but overcoming the pressure of the game has allowed him to succeed, he said.
“During the game people tell me they see a whole different person in me,” he noted. “My whole personality changes.”
Over the past five years he has developed into a monster on the field. In 2016, he averaged 15 tackles, five tackles for a loss and caused numerous sacks.
Willis said there isn’t another sport he would rather play. He tried soccer and baseball, but they were too slow for him.
“I really need to be out there controlling people,” he exclaimed. “I really love hitting. I love how everybody has to works together.”
He said living away from home for the first time will be an adjustment, but with some of his teammates also attending St. Frances, he is eager to begin.
“I’m comfortable. I’m ready. I really want to get to it. I’m very excited,” he said.
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