A Film Rat

Willie Ferrell gets the game tape for the next Friday's opponent early in the week, and the standout linebacker from Florida A&M University High in Tallahassee, watches it at least eight times before kickoff.

"Just so I know it like the back of my hand," Ferrell stated.

Judging by the numbers, Willie Ferrell knew the film inside and out.

One of the top players in the state in the class of 2009, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Ferrell registered an eye-popping 167 tackles, forced six fumbles, recovered three other fumbles, picked off two passes and sacked the quarterback eight times, helping his team to a 9-5 record and a spot in the 1B state championship game. They lost to Jupiter Christian, 27-14.

Hometown school Florida State has already offered a verbal scholarship. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, LSU, Rutgers, Miami, Florida and Notre Dame are a few of the schools that have sent emails. Everyone is sending mail, and a lot of programs have been spotted inside the high school to check in and pick up film, including USC.

"Oh man, first and foremost he is a quality young guy," head coach Ira Reynolds said. "A yes sir no sir young man. He's a leader. Been a leader on my team since ninth grade. Always going to do what he's supposed to do all the time. Always encourages his teammates.

"On the field, I'd hate to coach against him," Reynolds continued. "He is relentless. He plays mike linebacker for us. If the play goes to the outside, he's either going to be making the tackle or help. Very few teams come right at him. Blockers don't faze him at all."

Reynolds said a Notre Dame coach called a few weeks ago to ask about Ferrell.

"He was asking, one his interest and two, is he going to qualify and things like that," Reynolds said. Ferrell reported a 2.7 GPA and has yet to take the SAT or ACT, but will do so soon. "He had already heard some things about him and wanted to confirm some other things one way or the other."

Reynolds worked closely with the team's defensive coordinator Darrell Dawson during the summer, learning how to study and breakdown film. As a sophomore, he and his older brother Jonathan, who is now a freshman safety at Florida A&M, used to quarterback the defense together, but Ferrell knew he'd be doing it all alone as a junior.

During fourth hour of the school day, Ferrell is a teacher's assistant for Reynolds, so he and a teammate were able to watch a lot of film there.

"I run the film session for the defense sometimes," Ferrell said. "That's why I have to watch the film like I'm a coach."

Reynolds called Ferrell a coach on the field.

"Willie, in his free time, he'll just come watch film," Reynolds said. "There was certain games we'd let him make the call, just to test his skill and judgment on what's going on, and he graded out at like an 87 percent. There were a lot of times he made the call himself, and ironically he didn't blitz himself a lot."

Though they play a 4-3, Reynolds said Ferrell could play in any defense.

"He can play in anything," he stated. Ferrell runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, and bench presses 345 pounds. "Hand down, hand up, it doesn't matter. Just give him an opportunity to go to the ball, but he likes the middle. He's the kind of kid you want to blitz with, and sometimes we can play him at strong safety."

Ferrell went on unofficial visits to Florida State for the Virginia game, and Miami for the Seminoles game this past season. He plans to camp at Florida State this summer and also hit a Nike combine.

"I may go up north for a camp, maybe Notre Dame," Ferrell said. "I was going to go to Ohio State last year."

Ferrell doesn't know much about Notre Dame, but is kind of familiar. Former Irish player Jay Vickers went to Florida A&M University High for three years before transferring to Lincoln for his senior season. Reynolds brought him back to speak to the team recently.

"I tell the guys, a place like Notre Dame, if nothing else you're going to get an education you couldn't get at these other schools," Reynolds said.

"They graduate a lot of their students and they have a lot of tradition," Ferrell said. "One of my friend's cousins (Rashon Powers-Neal) went there and played fullback a few years back."

It's so early in the recruiting process, Ferrell isn't sure who he truly likes. He said he could see himself going north or west for school.

"It really doesn't matter," Ferrell stated. "I'd go away. I'm just trying to get an education."

"He doesn't plan to stay home," Reynolds added. "He talks about leaving. I assume he means more than his mother's household. If he stays home he'd probably go to Florida State, but I wouldn't discount Miami or any other big-named school."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories