David Dudeck looked surprised that he even had to say anything. Twice during the second quarter of Boston College’s 48-34 loss to Florida State, the sophomore kick returner casually trotted over to the freshman at his side as the ball hung in the air. Dudeck put his hands up, motioning for Myles Willis to secure the kick and take a knee, but Willis had other plans.
He lost track of where he was on the field. New to the kick return position, having just replaced Spiffy Evans last week against USC, Willis needed to slow down.
“I’m just thinking, ‘catch the ball and run,” he said.
Dudeck wouldn’t let him.
“He kept telling me, ‘don’t be selfish,’” Willis said.
A sense of urgency kicked in to Dudeck as he realized the rookie was about to try to return the kick rather than take the field position.
He quickened his pace from a trot to a sprint and rather than just throwing his hands up he started waving them. Willis got the message, but barely. He narrowly avoided stepping over the end zone.
“When you’re back there you want to go and you want to make an impact,” Willis said. “I can’t be selfish and then the next thing you know we’re at the 15.”
When the next kick came to Willis five minutes later, his quick feet gained steam again, and again Dudeck had to shut him down—this time with noticeably more force and frustration.
Willis put his head down and made his way to the sideline with his counterpart repeating the same message.
“Don’t be selfish.”
To start the second half, the ball fell into Willis’ hands four yards in front of the end zone. Now he didn’t have a choice except to take off, and after a 61-yard burst up the right side he had given his team excellent field position.
“That’s why they put me back there,” Willis said. “Things like that can really shift momentum.”
“He’s got sweet feet and he’s fast,” senior running back Andre Williams said.
Willis emerged against the Seminoles as a welcome counter to Williams’ relentlessly bruising attack.
“He has a lot of speed,” said senior quarterback Chase Rettig. “Our special teams did a good job blocking and he hit the hole. He had a big reception and some nice runs.
“We know what he can be and what he can do on the field. Our coaches have done a really good job putting him in certain plays where we go to him.”
Rettig and Willis hooked up on the freshman’s other highlight from the game, as Rettig hit the back on a wheel-route down the right side for a 52-yard touchdown.
The Eagles had practiced that play repeatedly during practice leading up to the game. Willis’ teammates kept telling him he was going to be wide open, so when it actually worked he said he felt numb.
“I didn’t feel any extra emotions,” Willis said. “I just knew, ‘catch the ball and go score.’”
Willis finished the game with 28 rushing yards on five carries and 69 receiving yards with five receptions on top of his 114 yards in the kick return game.
“He brings me up,” said BC head coach Steve Addazio. “He’s got that look in his eye. I’ve seen that look in guys before. He’s got that look. He’s a competitive guy, he loves football, and he’s got talent.”
It wasn’t enough to give the Eagles the necessary push to secure a victory, but for a team lacking depth and short on offensive firepower it was still a welcome sight.
“Now we know that he’s a weapon back there,” Williams said.
And he’s a weapon the Eagles will need when Williams and Rettig are gone after this season, leaving behind holes at some of the Eagles’ most important offensive positions.