Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis was arriving at the school in mid-July
for an agility drill training workout when he received a call from his
brother that a rumor was circulating that their seventeen year old brother
Detris had drowned near his Bruceton, Tennessee home. He didn’t want to
believe it and asked that the rumor be checked out for fact.
As Willis and a teammate were speaking about the changes coaches had made with one of the drills, he received the call from his brother confirming that the rumor was indeed true.
The younger Willis drowned after cramping up while swimming in the gravel pits in nearby Camden. Police reports stated that Willis had been swimming in deep water for several hours. Unfortunately, he began cramping and went under the water. His friends were unable to get the 6-0 218 athlete out of the water.
On the very day fullback/linebacker Detris Willis was set to begin workouts with his Central High School teammates- his life so tragically ended.
Sadly, these Willis brothers had just began to bond. Because of a broken home, the Willis family had not grown up very close in their younger years. In fact, Willis only recently found out that he has twin brothers, who he thought were his half brothers. His mother was pregnant when she left the family, a subject that Willis did not wish to elaborate upon.
He suffered a broken foot that required surgery and hopes to return to the same level of play that earned him superb recognition a year ago. The 2005 Scout.com Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year was asked to deliver part of his brother’s eulogy.
“I didn’t think that I was going to say anything, but I just got up there and said, I just talked about how I kept it in my heart every time I would go out there and how I would play for my brother.” Willis said when asked about speaking at Detris’ funeral.
“I never got the chance to tell him that I know you wanted to do the things that I’ve done and be like me, but I thank you because you help me do what I do,” Willis said. “By my being the oldest, I feel like I need to go out there and lead by example and show them.”
Patrick Willis said that he will not wear anything on his uniform that will be a tribute to his younger brothers’ memory this season.
“I won’t do that,” he said. “I’ll carry him in my heart. That’s the best way.”