Packers sign nine free agents

If connections could secure a roster spot, Keith Willis would be a lock to make the 2004 Green Bay Packers.<P> Willis, a 6-foot-5, 264- pound tight end out of Virginia Tech, was one of nine non-drafted free agents the Packers signed Friday.<P>

Willis has strong Packer ties.

For two seasons at Norview High School in Norfolk, Va., Willis teammates included current Packers David Martin and James Whitley. In addition, Willis hails from the same area in eastern Virginia that produced former Packer quarterback Aaron Brooks, currently with the New Orleans Saints, as well as Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick and NBA superstar Allen Iverson.

The 23-year old Willis was a four-year letterwinner and two-year starter for the Hokies. According to the Packers, Willis, who played briefly for the VTU basketball team in 1999-2000, owns solid blocking skills and above average hands. He made 18 catches for 356 yards with four touchdowns while making 20 starts for VTU. The highlight of Willis' career came when he caught an 87-yard TD pass – a record for Tech tight end – against Syracuse in 2002.

Also signed were guards Forest Vance (Cal-Davis), Joe Hayes (San Jose State) and Atlas Herrion (Alabama); tackle Jason Hilliard (Louisville); fullback Vonta Leach (East Carolina); defensive end Junior Glymph (Carson-Newman); and linebackers Maurice Jones (South Florida) and Kevin Jackson (Hawaii).

All of the offensive linemen are over 302 pounds with Hilliard, who wears a size 18 shoe and bench presses 440 pounds, tipping the scales at 340-pounds.

Leach and Herrion each played on both sides of the ball in college.

Herrion redshirted in 2002 at Alabama, after his junior season, to work on his offensive and defensive lineman skills. Herrion closed the year as a defensive tackle and returned to the offensive line in 2003 spring drills and started six games last season (two at let guard, four at left tackle).

Leach, the MVP of the 2003 Blue-Gray Game, started his career at East Carolina as a linebacker before shifting to fullback for his final two seasons.

Here are the particulars on the new Packers:

Junior Glymph, defensive end, 6-3, 260, Carson-Newman.

Joe Hayes, guard 6-5, 310, San Jose State.

Atlas Herrion, guard 6-4, 304, Alabama.

Jason Hilliard, tackle 6-6, 340, Louisville.

Kevin Jackson, linebacerk, 6-5, 229, Hawaii.

Maurice Jones, linebacker, 6-3, 245, South Florida.

Vonta Leach, fullback 6-0, 253, East Carolina.

Forest Vance, guard, 6-5, 302 pounds, Cal-Davis.

Keith Willis, tight end, 6-5, 264-pounds, Virginia Tech.

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