Shamon Willis has a familiar last name to BYU football fans of the 1990’s. Jamal Willis was BYU’s starting running back from 1991-1994 and racked up nearly 3,000 career rushing yards (2,970) during his collegiate career. He topped the 1,000 yard plateau twice while a Cougar in 1992 and 1994 before embarking on an NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers. Fast forward 21 years later, and Jamal’s son, Shamon Willis, is just about to embark on his own football journey.
Shamon Willis is a 5-foot 10-inch, 160-pound defensive back prospect at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Shamon has been playing football his entire life, but his problem was that he was always seen as a player with adequate football skills but not the stature to play division one football. That is until recently.
“BYU has been looking at (Shamon) since he was a ninth grader,” Explained Jamal Willis. “He was always skilled and athletic but just small. He’d go to camps and they’d say ‘yeah, that’s Jamal Willis’ son. He has skills, but he’s just small.’ He’s now 5-10 and they have taken notice in the past year that he’s finally grown into a recruitable athlete. It’s incredible what happens once they hit a growth spurt.”
Willis is a fixture in the Westlake Thunder’s secondary alongside four star prospect Chaz Ah You, who BYU coaches have been in pursuit of for some time. Jamal Willis feels playing alongside Ah You, who’s a childhood friend of Shamon Willis, has helped up his son’s recruiting profile.
“(Shamon)’s been playing corner all year. They’ve begun moving him around the field on offense and on kick and punt returns as well. He’s at the same school Chaz Ah You is at, so that has helped some with recruiting since BYU is pursuing Chaz.”
Shamon Willis a lifelong BYU fan. He mentioned he “grew up” at LaVell Edwards Stadium, attending games and practices with his BYU legend father, who worked for a time as an academic advisor for BYU but now is an assistant principal at Brighton High School. Shamon likes that BYU coaches have been in contact with him.
“It’s pretty tight,” Shamon surmised. “I’ve been around BYU since I was 4 years old. I grew up at that stadium and I’m pretty familiar with the program. I have gotten to get to know Coach Mendenhall really well over the years. I also know Coach Atuaia really well. I’ve gotten to know Coach Holliday and Coach Howell better recently.”
Willis grew up mainly an offensive weapon at through his pee-wee and junior high years but he made the transition to defensive back at Westlake as a sophomore and has been learning the position on the fly. He’s collected 16 total tackles on the season so far with one interception for the Thunder who are 4-5 on the season entering the final week of the regular season. He’s also been a weapon on offense in spots for the Thunder, as his father noted, catching 9 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown on the season.
Shamon has the family connections to the BYU program but has also begun to hear from other collegiate programs as well. Utah, Colorado State, and Cal-Berkeley have reached out but Willis and his father both hope that more interest will come as he hits the summer camp circuit this summer.
Seeing as Willis played offense growing up and only recently made the transition to defensive back, it leave one to wonder if he’d rather play offense in college. It doesn’t matter to Shamon.
“[Most of the schools] are looking at me mainly as a cornerback,” Shamon explained. “Utah talked to me a little bit about wide receiver. I don’t have a preference on which position I play at the next level, though. I always played more offense than defense growing up but I have grown to like defense a lot. Playing cornerback is a lot of fun.”
Willis feels like he’s acquitted himself well on the field in his first year playing cornerback for Westlake. He said that his relationship with BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell, who is BYU’s point man regarding Shamon’s recruiting, has yielded a lot of tips and pointers that have improved his play on the field.
“(Coach Howell) told me at the beginning of the summer what I needed to work on to improve,” Shamon explained. “I’ve only been playing defensive back for two years now. He’s been helping me out while I was at camps and checking in periodically to see how my season is going.”
Shamon is still waiting on receiving his first scholarship offer but he feels that it is only a matter of time before that happens. He said he’s attend all of the summer camps that the in-state schools host this coming summer, as well as attending the All Poly Camp. He said he’d also like to attend a couple of camps out of state if he can manage it. According to Shamon, an offer from BYU would be a dream.
“It would mean a lot to get an offer from BYU,” Shamon said. “I have dreamed about going to that school for a long time. I have gone to pretty much every game and a lot of practices at BYU. It would be an honor to carry our family legacy at BYU.”
When asked if he preferred Shamon play at BYU, Jamal Willis was diplomatic in his response.
“You know it’s one of those things where he should go wherever they want him,” Jamal said. “BYU would be great but it’s whatever he wants. I leave that up to him. I lived my life in football and he’ll decide where he wants to go when that time comes.”