Willis Excited About Return

Incoming transfer Brandon Willis has been in Burlington, N.C. since March 18, which has provided the defensive lineman with some much needed family time.

Willis, who played his prep career at Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes, enrolled at UNC in January '10, but transferred to UCLA the following August to be closer to his father's new job. When his grandmother became very sick, the Willis family decided a move to North Carolina was in order, which included Willis transferring back into UNC.

"I'm just working out and spending time with her," Willis said of his ailing grandmother. "It's good, because I've never really had this much time on my hands where I can actually be there for a long period of time. It's good that I can be there, take her back and worth to the doctor, and be around the house helping. It's sad that it happened in the situation that it did, but it's good that it has happened.

"[The move] was very stressful, but it's good, because it's finished now."

Willis will move into his dorm at UNC on May 9 and enroll in the first summer session.

"I'm excited to get back at it," Willis said. "I can't wait to be with all the guys. It feels good to be home. I'm just ready to get back to work and get ready to get back on the field."

Due to transfer rules, Willis is supposed to sit out this coming football season. However, with UNC's guidance, Willis, who sat out his lone season at UCLA, is filing a special situations waiver with the NCAA to allow him to play this coming season.

"I sat down with one of [UNC's] NCAA people and just provided all the doctors' records to prove that it's a valid reason that I'm moving back and just filing them and submitting them," Willis said. "I think everything will be submitted this week coming. And then it normally takes just a couple of weeks to hear back [from the NCAA]. We're making sure everything is in order before we send it to them, so they don't call back and say ‘Oh, we need this' or ‘We need that.' It takes a little bit of time to get everything situated."

According to Willis, the expectations are "high" that the NCAA will grant him a waiver.

"I have a friend named Barry Brunetti, who transferred from West Virginia to Ole Miss, because his mother was in a car wreck," Willis said. "Normally, when it's family-related when you're coming back and helping, you just have to show valid reason, when you're helping, [and] how often you're helping.

"Regardless, when it comes to my family, I'm going to be there. So whether I play or not isn't what's important."

If his waiver is granted, Willis will have four years of eligibility remaining.

In between spending time with his grandmother, Willis is on UNC's campus "every now and then."

"I'm getting work out plans and just talking to them about what I should be getting ready for," Willis said. "I went up there to do my class schedule. I'm coming around more and more as it gets time for me to go back."

Willis has felt welcomed by his former/future teammates.

"Everyone that I've talked to is pretty excited," Willis said. "It just felt like a homecoming when I came back."

The last time Willis was at UNC, John Blake was coaching the defensive line. Now, Willis will be coached by Joe Robinson.

"I think [our relationship] is very good," Willis said. "He knew a lot about me, because LSU recruited me. So it wasn't like he didn't know who I was. I've talked to him on a lot of different occasions and I think we've clicked. He's excited to have me and I'm excited to be back.

"He coached with Todd Howard, the former D-line coach at UCLA who coached me but is now at Washington State. He just seems like a genuinely good guy. He's a high energy guy, a high tempo guy, and he just wants to see guys do well. He seems like a good teacher."

Willis, who predominately played defensive end in high school, expects to play defensive tackle at UNC.

"When I left [UNC], I was probably 265-270 [pounds] and they were moving me back-and-forth [between end and tackle] just to see what was comfortable," Willis said. "But now, I'm 295. So I'm pretty much stuck at D-tackle now. Either way, wherever they want to play me is cool with me. I'm just trying to be on the field."

During his first stint at UNC, Willis sported jersey No. 92, which is now worn by Sylvester Williams. Willis is unsure what his new number will be.

Willis, who was undeclared at UCLA and during his first tour at UNC, plans to major in exercise and sports science.

"I want to be a physical therapist," Willis said. "My mom, she was a massage therapist [and] I watched her build her business before she passed away. So I feel good about that field. Just helping people and being able to give back."

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