College coach expects big things from 'Kiwi'

Boston College defensive line coach Keith Willis was kind enough to share his thoughts with TGI on his former pupil, Mathias Kiwanuka. Willis, who had a 12-year NFL career as a D-lineman (10 seasons with Pittsburgh), obviously knows a little about the pro game.

Q: What can you tell us about Mathias?

A: I don't know that there's anything bad about him at all. He's a great young man. He's very coachable. I think the Giants got a very good football player, a very good person and he's going to represent them well.

Q: What is it about him that stands out?

A: His ability to want to do well. His desire to do well was impressive. He always wanted to be the best at what he was doing.

Q: How much further along is he in the pass rush game?

A: That's true that he's a great pass rusher, but he has developed into a pretty good run stopper too. Now has he arrived? No. He still has some developing to do. But he definitely can stop the run too. He's not bad there at all. He's had to work at it. He was just a skinny kid when he got here. He was undersized. He had to put on some weight to deal with the bigger people.

Q: Is he the best pass rusher you've seen?

A: For sure. He's the best I've been around. He's a lot like another kid I coached, Antwan Peek at the Texans. Mathias reminds me a lot of him.

Q: In what ways?

A: Like Antwan, Mathias is very good at running around people to get to the quarterback, but his spin move is a lot more effective than the other kid.

Q: What did you tell him after the Giants drafted him?

A: I spoke to him immediately. I told him to go out there and enjoy himself. I'm from that market – I was born and raised in Newark, NJ – and I know that market can make you or break you. I told him not to get caught up in all that. Just do what you're capable of doing and let your talent speak for itself. If he does that, he'll be just fine.

Q: How is his work ethic?

A: Every year he got better in that department. But it didn't really need to change. He always wanted to be as good as he possibly could be. It became frustrating to him when he didn't reach his goal, which was a good thing because it only made him work even harder.

Q: Leadership abilities?

A: His leadership abilities speak for themselves because he was a two-time captain here. He earned the respect of his peers because of his ability to play the game the right way. He wasn't an outspoken player, but he was the type of person the other players loved to be around. He gained their respect.

Q: Any special memories of him?

A: Check out the North Carolina State game from last year. They had three offensive linemen that were just drafted and he dismantled them. He put on a show. He has the capability – if he discovers how consistently good he can be – he has the capability of being an All-Pro. And a lot sooner than a lot of people probably expect.

Q: Where do you think he will he fit in on this DE-heavy defensive line?

A: That's for them to decide, but I can say this: They have a great player in Mathias and the best way to get the most out of him is to coach his tail up and put him out there and let him get his feet wet. They can decide to wait for him to get it done or put him out there and let him get it done on the run. I'd put him right out there. This game today isn't for developing guys. I know he's hungry for that. Knowing Mathias, he's going to want to play right now.

Q: How is he off the field?

A: He's an excellent kid. You're not going to have any problems with him. I would venture to say that if you have any off-field problems with him, it would be an out of body experience, because that's just not him. He's a leader, a very community-oriented person. He's willing to get out in the community and do whatever he can for other people. He's a very sensitive person to the needs of others. He's such a humanitarian. For a young person, he's very conscientious to what other people don't have. He would do anything and everything for the next person.

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