LAKE BUENA VISTA — It was a moment two years ago that captivated the recruiting world.
Landon Collins sat with his mom and two pairs of gloves in front of him — one pair for Alabama, another pair for LSU. Collins picked up the Alabama gloves and committed to Nick Saban and the University of Alabama. Collins’ mother, April Justin, was visually displeased with her older son’s decision.
It’s been two years but Justin is about to go through another glove dance — this time with her younger son — Gerald Willis (6-3, 275, New Orleans, LA Edna Karr).
Willis is a versatile defensive lineman from New Orleans, who can play both end and tackle and has narrowed a wide list of suitors down to just two: the home state Tigers and the Florida Gators.
Like most kids from Louisiana, Willis feels pressure to stay close to home but he looks to his brother and other people who have left Louisiana to play football.
“Like my brother, Landon, he set a good example of leaving,” Willis said. “Everybody thought he was going to LSU, same thing with me. If he sets a good example I could set a good example. He just told me to pick the school that’s best for you. I still haven’t mad my choice. Everybody think I’m going to LSU but I still gotta make my decision.”
Another person who made the move to leave Louisiana to attend college is Florida tight end coach Derek Lewis — who is the main coach recruiting Willis to Florida.
“Coach Lewis, he left, he could have went to LSU,” Willis said. “He went to Texas. I think Coach Lewis is a good dude; he has a strong New Orleans vibe to him, so I think if he could do it I could do it. I just look at it like that.”
Lewis has recruited Willis for four years, calling the prospect a “puppy” when he first met him as a ninth grader. At 6-3, 275-pounds, Lewis doesn’t call him a puppy anymore but he is able to sit down with Willis and show him the opportunities that he would have at Florida.
“I look at the film and the D-line and how they’ve been struggling,” Willis said. “They really do need some D-linemen to come in with Easley out. I really do look at that type of stuff. That’s why they’re still in my top two.”
After being recruited heavily for four years, Willis is relieved to have the process winding down and is excited that he will announce his decision during the Under Armour game on January 2.
Willis insists that he has not made a final decision about where he will go but plans to put on either Gator or Tigers gloves to announce his decision.
From the outside, it may seem like déjà vu for his mother but after going through it once, she’s a veteran in the recruiting game now and is ready to let her son make the decision that he feels is best for him.
“She really doesn’t say which one she likes more,” Willis said of his mother. “She says she’s a fan of me.”