On Friday afternoon, Miami Hurricanes redshirt senior DT Gerald Willis III announced his decision to skip the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl due to a hand injury and the associated rehab.
Here is the announcement from Willis, courtesy of Miami Athletics:
“I just would like to start off by saying that God is awesome and that without Him and His favor over me, I could not and would not be at this point in my life,” Willis said. “After the trials and challenges I experienced early on in my college career I am blessed to have experienced triumphs and successes this past season. Unfortunately, I suffered a hand injury and I have been advised to start rehab.
“I would like to thank my amazing and supportive family, especially my parents. Thank you to Coach Al Golden for giving me a second chance. Thank you to Coach Mark Richt for never giving up on me, but investing in me and my emotional and mental health; while also being an incredible mentor, coach and friend to me. I also have to thank Coach Manny Diaz, and of course Coach Jess Simpson, for putting a lot of time and effort into helping me get to where I am today.
“To the U Family – the staff, faculty, and the greatest fans in college football -- I’m very honored, humbled but also excited to get started on the next phase in the journey of football. I look forward to representing my family, teammates, coaches and most importantly myself as I transition from being a student-athlete to a professional athlete. Thank you all again, it will forever and always be about The U!”
Willis, who was a second-team All-America selection this season by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America and Sports Illustrated, racked up a career-high 59 tackles and four sacks, including 18 tackles for loss, the most in the nation by a defensive tackle.
“We are proud of Gerald and all he has accomplished both on and off the field,” head coach Mark Richt said. “Gerald is a remarkable person who has authored a remarkable story of strength, perseverance and determination. We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing where the next steps of his journey take him.”
This is obviously a blow for Miami’s defense, as Willis III was a dominant force throughout the 2018 season. However, with the NFL draft ahead, and a potential top 2 round selection, Willis III has more to lose than gain by playing in the bowl game, especially with the hand injury now being a factor. I know some won’t agree, but I think this is the best decision for him.
Thank you for everything, Gerald. All the best moving forward.