Vic Boblett announced in August that he would retire as the Rock Island High School football coach after the 2011 season.
He’s sticking to that plan, but it’s not as easy stepping down knowing that he could’ve coached receiver Derrick Willies next fall.
Willies, who committed to the Iowa football team on Tuesday, transferred from Burlington High School to Rock Island in January. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior picked Iowa over Iowa State. Willies also had scholarship offers from Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Eastern Illinois and had been hearing from both Nebraska and Wisconsin.
“I’ve told everybody I’ve talked to there’s only one thing wrong with that kid and that is he didn’t come a year earlier,” Boblett said of Willies.
Bryan Stortz has been hired as the new head football coach at Rock Island, moving over from Lake Zurich High School, which is in the Chicago suburbs. Stortz hasn’t officially started his new job at Rock Island, but Boblett, who coached at the school for 21 years, said his successor is fully aware of the new target he has at receiver.
“We had Coach Stortz here in the spring time getting to know the kids and trying to make the transition real smooth,” Boblett said. “And so he’s very familiar with this young man.”
Willies was born in California and moved to Iowa as a high school freshman. Boblett said Willies had been living with his aunt in Burlington before he transferred to Rock Island.
Boblett said Willies’ mother, who currently lives in Las Vegas, has transferred guardianship of her son over to a family in Rock Island.
“We wrote a letter to the (Illinois High School Association) and just laid out what had transpired and so on and they ruled him eligible,” Boblett said.
Willies made second-team all state as a junior last fall at Burlington. He caught 57 passes for 934 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. He also is an accomplished hurdler in track.
“I’ve seen enough to know he’s a special young man,” Boblett said. “I have seen his film from his junior year and he’s the real deal.”
Willies is believed to be the first player from Rock Island to be recruited to Iowa for football since tight end Austin Wheatley in 1995.
Willies is also believed to be the second high school junior to pick Iowa. Defensive end David Kenney, who attends Pike High School in Indianapolis, committed to Iowa last week.
Willies took an unofficial visit to the Iowa campus last week and spoke highly of the experience. He then explained his reason for committing during an interview with HawkeyeReport.com Tuesday afternoon.
“I just knew that was the right place for me and I didn’t think I needed to wait any longer,” Willies said. “There was no reason to.”
Boblett said he was surprised that Willies committed this soon.
“I am a little bit, but apparently his heart was pretty much set on Iowa because I know Wisconsin and Nebraska and a lot of other schools had been showing strong interest, especially after Iowa and Iowa State offered this past week,” Boblett said. “I was anticipating that there would be several other of the big-time schools offering here in the next week or so.”
Watch Willies’ junior-season highlight video:
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football