football

Willis heads to Westwood

Willisua  1 6 200
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Wednesday's ceremony was just that: ceremonial -- a mere formality.
Four-star defensive back Priest Willis went through the motions. He surrounded himself with family, friends and coaches to make his grand announcement. Everyone behind the table wanted it to seem as though other schools were in play. Helmets representing Arizona State, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida State and others were even placed on the floor in front of the podium. Then, Willis did what everyone knew he would.
He chose UCLA.
Just hours after his close friend and fellow four-star safety Tahaan Goodman pledged his services to the Bruins, Willis followed suit. And as he explained the reasons behind his decision, nobody let out a gasp or flashed the slightest look of shock. The evening was, in every conceivable way, the status quo. Predictable? Without a doubt. But that won't stop the rejoicing in Westwood.
Nor should it.
"I want to be an All-American on the field and off," Willis said after making his choice. "UCLA is the place where I can do that. It's the place for me. It's a place that we can compete for Pac-12 championships.
"I committed to Jim Mora yesterday. They were all happy. They were excited."
There were words about the cliché "right fit" in there as well. Everything about the press conference held at Willis' Marcos de Niza High School went off as planned. No surprises, no missteps, just the newest UCLA commitment finally saying the words he's intentionally avoided saying for weeks, if not months.
This was no snap decision.
"The visit last week was more for my mom to get her opinion and my step dad to get his opinion," Willis said. "I kind of already had my opinion about it. All I had to do was see if my mom loved it and if she was OK with it."
Willis said playing side-by-side with Goodman factored into his decision, but was not the sole basis for it. Instead, he pointed to what he feels is a symbiotic relationship as the driving force behind his choice.
"It was really about the opportunity to me," he said. "I think a lot of people overlook that. UCLA is in a media market where I can build a brand. I saw what UCLA could do for me as well as what I can do for them. Academic side, it's a school that gets 91,000 applications every year. I'm just glad I can be one of them."
Rivals.com ranks Willis as the No. 56 prospect in America and the top player in the state of Arizona. Willis chose UCLA from more than 15 scholarship offers, including ones from Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, LSU and Michigan.
Willis says he expects other coaching staffs to continue recruiting him until signing day but insists he will remain steadfast in his decision.
"I'm a Bruin and there's no changing my mind," Willis said. "I respect the other coaching staffs recruiting me and I appreciate them, but my mind is made up. I'm a Bruin. We're on to big things. You guys better watch UCLA football."
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